In the world of Associate cricket ‘controlling the controllable’ is a phrase that can have an all too ironic ring.
With fixtures against high-level opposition becoming ever harder to come by and restructured tournaments limiting those few opportunities still further Associate players have been left to wonderjust how and where their future development is supposed to happen.
And with rumour and counter-rumour circulating around the financial future of the Associate game, too, so the uncontrollable seems to play the strongest hand when it comes to the second tier of the world game.
There is still, however, the controllable, and Malcolm Cannon, Chief Executive of Cricket Scotland, is not about to indulge in any hand-wringing.
With an impressive new governance structure, an award-winning development programmeand the well-developed fundamentals of an elite domestic competition already in place Cricket Scotland has quietly gone about its business, and after some exceptional results on the field, too, Cannon is bullish in his goals for the future of the sport north of the border.
“There is no doubt whatever that if we keep going the way that we are then Scotland will be the next Full Member,” he said. “We absolutely deserve it and I am confident that we can achieve it.
“Ireland and Afghanistan becoming Full Members is a wonderful filip for them and it has removed a so-called glass ceiling too.
“It has inspired everyone involved in Scottish cricket to think that we are definitely the next cab off the rank.”
The ICC’s criteria for Full Member status have provided further encouragement, too.
“In the past there was a certain element of mystery around what it took to get there,” he continued.
“Why were certain countries Full Members when the quality of their cricket wasn’t great, their governance was poor and their financial sustainability was almost non-existent, and yet other stronger nations remained Associates? But the ICC has come out and made clear its criteria for Full Membershipand in terms of that list we tick an awful lot.
“The ones that we don’t yet tick are victories on the field against senior Full Members for both men and women in world tournaments and the present status of our top domestic game. [The latter is] very easy for us to address, we can invest in and improve its status very easily. The quality of our regional game is exceptional, the structure of it is fine, we just need to get things clarified and slightly improved and we can do that quickly and in a very measured manner.
“Achievements on the field are much more difficult to achieve. The quality of ourcricket needs to be improved but that can only be brought about bymore opportunities to play Full Members.
“Both of these are [affected by] financial constraints – it costs an awful lot to play a Full Member whether at home or away – and [also by] the congestion of Full Member’s fixture diaries but while those challenges are not addressed it almost makes our elevation to Full Member status impossible.
“However, it certainly doesn’t take away from our ambition and it doesn’t take away from the creative ways we have of addressing those issues.”
It has been a year characterised by some impressive performances. A strong showing at the Desert T20 was followed by headline-grabbing victories over both Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in the summer, and with the women’s and age-group sides continuing to progress, too, Scotland has, says Cannon, backed their off-field strength with on-field advancement.
“The whole of 2017 has been good so far,” he said. “We went out to the Desert T20 in January to play against the other leading Associates and performed very well. We were beaten in the semi-final by a very good [Ireland] performance but in our three victories we showed immense steel and proved that our world ranking of eleven inT20 is an appropriate reflection of where we are.
“Beating two Full Members in one-day cricket is something we hadn’t achieved before and all being wellit will prove to be a real turning point for the men’s team. It is something that has always been highlighted as a failing for us but we have shown that we can get over the line against strong opposition so hopefully we can consistently take that into tournament play as well.
“There have been disappointments, too, of course. We lost to Namibia in one of our World Cricket League matches and our Under 19s were knocked out of the U19 World Cup after two exceptionally exciting, tight games against Ireland.
“But that is the nature of sport.There are highs and lows, and our highs have been extremely high and definitely warrantedwhile the lows have been very disappointing.”
The ICC’s elevation of Afghanistan and Ireland to Full Member status was accompanied by news of a revised model for revenue distribution across the world game. Replacing thefinancial plan approved in April, the two newest guests at the top table will each receive US $40 million, money to come out out of a revised Associate budget of $240 million which is also $40 million less than that previously indicated. With widespread speculation around the identity of the thirteenth team in the ICC’s proposed ODI league, too, shifting goalposts have increased uncertainty.
“I think the real difficulty we have is a lack of clarity,” said Cannon. “Even though there are rumours all over the cricketing community there is nothing set in stone yet.
“At the moment it is assumed that the winners of the World Cricket League Championship will go forward as the thirteenth team. Subsequently there have been some questions about whether that might change or not but at the moment we are assuming the status quo as there is no confirmation [to the contrary].
“The funding issue is still up for debate. We know that the latest proposal is that India gets a substantially larger share of the spoils and that to pay for that it will come out of the Associate pot [the US $40 million reduction].
“However that has not been confirmed and there is also a question mark over whether those figures are affordable at the moment because the latest version is based on the premise of extant income. There is also a possible upside in terms of further advertising revenues and commercial revenues from partners which might mean that there are additional funds to go round.
“So the upshot is that Associates might not end up being hurt, but in the absence of information to the contrary we have to assume that the last best guess is the best guess and [if so] we will need to cut our cloth accordingly.
“But there is no point in us whinging. We need to work closely with the ICC. We need them to understand the plight of Associates and we, in turn, need to come up with proposals which are well costed, well thought through and deliver what the ICC needs which is a world where more nations are competitive at the top level.
“There are a lot of good things going on with the ICC. Yes, we can get frustrated in quieter moments, but the mood music is improving and most of the things are going the right way.
“The pace of change is increasing all the time. [Prior to the latest announcement] if we look at when the last Full Member was approved it was twenty years ago.
“Now there are two new ones and there is no reason why there couldn’t be another within the next five years.”