How about little regard for associates' success, Mr. Gavaskar?

How about little regard for associates' success, Mr. Gavaskar?

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"Get real guys, one win does not make you good enough to play in the cricket World Cup. If these teams are included then like we have seen in previous editions the quality of the game comes down and dilutes an event as big as the World Cup."

Read it again. Read it out loud. The statement has enough substance to make you go W..h..a..t..??? Yes, that was exactly my reaction when I saw this quote on yesterday’s Mid-Day column penned down by none other than Sunil Gavaskar. Here is someone whose each comment matters to the millions of the fans and indeed, in his capacity as a BCCI-contracted commentator, his comments are being heard as well. At a time, when 12 teams are playing Test cricket, how can you justify a 10-team World Cup and especially when we are talking about the sport’s globalization and the inherent potential to mass appeal? 

Football, the most-followed sports in the world, has a 32-team World Cup and is looking to make it a 48-team event in the near future. Similarly, the Basketball World Cup has 32 countries, the Rugby World Cup is long-established as 20 teams and the World Baseball Classic has a 16-team competition. Even an indigenous sport like Kabbadi has a World Cup of 12 teams. 

While none can argue the mass appeal that the sport of cricket has garnered since WorldTel paid $10 million for the 1996 World Cup TV rights in the aftermath of the economic liberalization in 1991, it is a clear-cut fact that the sport can only go beyond the reaches of the traditional powerhouses if and only if it starts to adopt more liberal approach towards the minnows and start giving them exposure that they badly need at the moment. However, due to ICC's love for elites and the attempt to make the sport a basis of meritocracy, the associates suffer the most and the governing body’s one stupid step after another have robbed the cricket world from some glorious tales of fight and struggle.

Instead of being concerned about that or giving a rational opinion on the same, Gavaskar made a statement of arrogance, which was clearly had no logic whatsoever. If the quote in the introductory line doesn’t paint a clearer picture, let me break it down his another quote from the same column.

"The point here is simple that if Ireland and Scotland, from where most of the noise comes about the number of teams for next year's World Cup, were not good enough to qualify in an associate members event then how can they even think in terms of playing with the big boys in the World Cup? It's like subcontinent teams asking to be included in the football World Cup.”

Here is where Mr Gavaskar got it completely wrong. 10 teams took part in the ICC World Cup Qualifier in March 2018 and in the eventful tournament, Scotland were hit hard due to the lack of DRS, with two key moments going against them in the Super Six match against Windies. The loss resulted in Scotland finishing the Super Sixes on five points, just one point behind Afghanistan, who with six points qualified for the World Cup along with their fellow finalists from the Caribbean Islands. For Gavaskar’s kind information, it was not only an associate tournament and there were as many as four Test teams participating in the event. And as qualities go, Scotland performed exceedingly well and had the match against Windies not marred by rain, they would have secured a place in the 2019 World Cup, ahead of West Indies and Zimbabwe. So first of all, the basis of qualification is faulty and instead of slamming that, Gavaskar decided to target small dogs. What a pity!

Gavaskar has always been on the BCCI’s side and has never shied away from expressing his loyalty to the organization. In 2013, Gavaskar, along with his then fellow commentators and Mumbaikars Ravi Shastri and Sanjay Manjrekar, was under fire for steadfastly refusing to acknowledge the 2013 IPL scandal and then came up with a silly explanation on a column for Economic Times, where he stated that his exclusive contract as a commentator with the BCCI explained his refusal to comment on this issue on other channels, or give interviews to other publications. Instead of commenting against the wrongdoing, he dutifully played his contracted role and at the same time, defended its actions and dismissing the scandal as the misdoing of a few individuals.

If that was not hypocrisy, the recent column has seriously gone way more notches higher. By supporting the 10-team World Cup, the legendary batsman has not just made a mockery of what the associates bring to the table - the sheer joy of an underdog tale - but also advocated for the primary contours of the archaic oligarchy that is the sport’s power centralization among few countries.

The point is given the big teams are avoiding the minnows to play in bilateral series because it doesn’t offer any financial gain, the associates can only get the chance to showcase their potential only if they get a chance to play at the grandest stage of all. ICC’s elitist behaviour has done cricket more harm than good and if the respected voices like Gavaskar would use such words for their demands of expansionism, then it is even more harmful.

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