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In his latest blog for PakPassion.net, Fazeer Mohammed writes about why both Ireland and Afghanistan should be commended for their Test debuts and be allowed time to flourish in this format of the game, wonders why only the visiting teams seem to be caught for ball-tampering and pleads with Pakistan and West Indies to support the idea of more nations in ICC's World Cup events.

By Fazeer Mohammed (20th June, 2018)

Belated Eid Mubarak to all!

I trust that you were able to make the most of the Blessed Month of Ramadan. If, like me, you didn’t do as much as you hoped, let us strive even harder now and pray that we are granted the reward of experiencing another Ramadaan, Insha Allah.

It was 90 years ago this month – June 23 to be precise – that the West Indies team walked onto the field at Lord’s for the regional side’s first day of official Test cricket. They lost all three Tests by an innings inside three days. In fact, of the 22 Tests played by the Caribbean team from that inaugural series in 1928 to the eve of the outbreak of World War II in 1939, there were 12 defeats including nine by innings margins and just four victories.

Evidence of that experience and of almost every other nation entering the arena of Test cricket since confirms that the traditional format of the game involves a very difficult and prolonged apprenticeship. So Ireland’s loss to Pakistan in their debut Test in Dublin and even Afghanistan’s annihilation by India inside two days in Bengaluru to mark their arrival among the league of Test nations should not have come as any major surprise.

Anyone scoffing and sneering dismissively at the Afghan newcomers and suggesting that they are unworthy of elite status by virtue of that thrashing at the hands of the top team in world cricket should remember that a Pakistan outfit including the likes of Younis, Misbah, Waqar and several other notables was similarly demolished by Australia in Sharjah in 2002.

Certainly no West Indian with any sense of even fairly recent history would dare to ridicule the Afghans, for we were administered the two-day treatment by England at Headingley in 2000, and the team then comprised the likes of Brian Lara, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Jimmy Adams, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose.

 
 

Bottom line: it can happen to anyone and has happened to almost everyone in Test cricket. What really matters for Afghanistan and Ireland is how they build from this inaugural experience. Will they get regular Test series to make that apprenticeship less taxing and, very importantly, is the structure of the domestic game in both nations vibrant enough and competitive enough to ensure a supply of enough youthful talent to prevent the established players from becoming complacent?

If it feels like Afghanistan were rushed into Test status it’s only because their rise from the lowest level of the international game – Division Five – has been meteoric. Often we behave as if there is something sacred and sacrosanct about Test cricket to the extent that many identify themselves as “Test cricket purists” when a better understanding of the history of the game will reveal that this presumably pure and sanctified format of the sport is overflowing with compromises and shameless shenanigans.

Just look at this latest issue involving a charge of ball tampering against Sri Lankan captain Dinesh Chandimal during the second Test against the West Indies in St Lucia over the period of Eid-ul-Fitr. Who doesn’t know that ball tampering in all its varieties has been going on everywhere for decades? Why is it that only visiting players are caught and prosecuted based on television evidence? Are the broadcasters afraid of showing what the home players are up to because they don’t want to jeopardise their lucrative contracts with the various boards?

This whole situation represents yet another instance of the International Cricket Council abdicating its responsibility for proper, effective and consistent governance of the game and merely confirms that the organisation is a glorified umbrella where the powerful nations gather every so often to wheel and deal their way to more and more revenue at the expense of the integrity and competitiveness of international cricket.

There is no better example of this power-broker, wheeling and dealing mentality than next year’s World Cup in England, which has been reduced to ten teams from the 14 at the 2015 event in Australia and New Zealand, and will be played on a full round-robin format over the first five-and-a-half weeks of the seven-week marathon.

Anyone pretending that this is about merit and promoting excellence is being disingenuous. This is about making money, about ensuring that the big, money-spinning nations aren’t eliminated early and that the high-profile fixtures like India vs Pakistan and Australia vs England are guaranteed no matter what happens in the knockout phase of the competition.

There is of course a valid observation about watering down an elite competition by having too many Associate Member teams involved. But if the ICC was really a democratic organisation, if all the Full Member nations – including Pakistan and the West Indies – were really interested in the growth and sustainability of international cricket at the highest level, they would be using whatever influence they have to create more opportunities for the likes of Zimbabwe (a supposed Full Member), Ireland, Afghanistan, Scotland, The Netherlands and Nepal and not lock them out as if this were some snooty, privileged members’ club.

When Australia can refuse to host Bangladesh because there is no money to be made from it, and when it is uneconomical for the West Indies to host anyone but India and England of the 12 Test-playing nations, it tells you that international cricket’s selfish, short-sighted model is unsustainable.

Discuss!