The ICC's commercial deals

The ongoing T20 World Cup has had a new addition to the ICC's growing list of commercial partners in the shape of Aramco. They will sponsor both men's and women's global events until the end of 2023 and have the naming rights for the player of the match awards in all those events.

So who are they? Quoting from the ICC press release they are a company with a "mission to deliver affordable, reliable and more sustainable energy to customers around the world". The press release goes on to say that "Aramco recycling machines will be installed across all seven match venues in Australia for the ICC Menís T20 World Cup" and that "Plastic waste recycled from these machines will be converted into clothing for future ICC events".

The press release talks about the ICC moving towards making cricket a more sustainable sport, and reading it gives the impression that Aramco are a cuddly sustainable energy provider. In reality, Aramco are an oil company and is the single greatest contributor to global carbon emissions of any company since 1965.

You may well ask how partnering with one of the world's greatest polluters helps move towards making cricket a more sustainable sport. This is more about what it does for Aramco.

Often, sports sponsorship is about promoting a product to the consumer. Coca Cola sponsor a team or a tournament because they want more people to buy Coca Cola. This isn't the case with Aramco as they're not a direct to consumer product. This is nothing more than an attempt to launder their reputation by associating themselves with a successful brand so that the everyday person thinks "cricket" when they hear about Aramco rather than "irreversible climate change".

On the same day as the ICC press release about the partnership with Aramco was issued, they also announced a partnership with UNICEF to "empower women and girls and promote inclusion and gender equality through cricket". Why is this relevant? Because the major shareholder of Aramco is the Saudi Arabian government.

The cognitive dissonance is amazing. Announcing a partnership to promote gender equality on the same day as a partnership with a company owned by a government that represses gender equality on a vast scale. One partnership completely invalidates the other.

That Saudi Arabia is trying to launder its reputation through sport is not news of course. Witness the LIV Golf Invitational, the Saudi Grand Prix in Formula One, the hosting of boxing title fights. It's a ploy that the apartheid government in South Africa did back in the day, something cricket is more than familiar with.

They say you can judge someone by the company they keep. If that goes for organisations too, what does it say about the ICC that they are happy to partner with a company owned by a government that systematically oppress women, religious minorities, migrant workers, and the LGBT community? A government that thinks nothing of assassinating a critical journalist?

The ICC are no doubt getting plenty of money from this sponsorship deal. Some of that money may go to developing the game. But it all leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

The end of the the "first round"

The "first round" of the T20 World Cup had an exciting conclusion in both groups on Thursday and Friday. It is important though that we don't get carried away with thinking that means the format of the T20 World Cup is great. It isn't.

From day one, everyone in associate cricket has always know that the "first round" is simply a qualifier tacking on to the front of the event. Little attempt was made to make it feel like part of the tournament. In the first year (2014) Zing bails were only used in the Super Ten. This time one of the groups was played away from the major cricket grounds in Australia. Even the commentators (who weren't always the top commentators in the tournament commentary team) occasionally let slip the pretence and outright called it a qualifier.

So despite this exciting end there will be very few in associate cricket that will miss it. In 2024 we have a twenty team tournament where every team starts at the same stage. This is undoubtedly a great move and is one of the most progressive decisions the ICC have made.

It will also allow a better start to the tournament - rather than a match played in front of low crowds away from a main venue, it can kick off with a big match involving the hosts at a major venue. It will be a better tournament all round.

There remain issues with the format - cricket's continuing phobia of quarter finals the most obvious - but as much as I criticise the ICC when they get things wrong, they deserve credit when they get things right. Roll on the 2024 tournament and let us all hope that it lasts.

The longevity of Alejandro Ferguson

I was pleased to see the presence of Alejandro "Alec" Ferguson in the Argentina team for the ongoing men's South American Championship. For those not aware, Ferguson is one of only a handful of players to have played in the 2020s having made their debut in the 1990s.

Ferguson has the longest career of them all though having made his debut as a 15 year old in the 1994 ICC Trophy in Kenya, making the length of his career just a few months short of 29 years.

Long careers are a family trait too. Dad Tony concluded his international career in that same ICC Trophy tournament having made his debut in January 1965 for a career of 29 years, 1 month. Grandad George played during Argentina's first-class period, making his debut in March 1930 and playing his last match against Brazil in December 1960, a career of 30 years and nine months.

Younger brother Pablo had a comparatively short 17 year international career having played his last game in 2014.

George Ferguson's last international came aged 48 as did Tony Ferguson's. Given this, who would bet against Alejandro beating the length of his granddad's international career?