Step Forward In Time: An Interview with Dave Richardson – 2023

It is rare that my blog gets scoops of any sort – let alone a scoop that saw me travel to the future, speak openly to the long-serving Chief Exec of the ICC, and happen to jot down everything he said, word for word. Here’s the transcript:

This is your third World Cup as ICC chief executive. What kind of tournament do you foresee?
An exciting one. For two reasons. There are at least two teams that have a realistic chance of even winning the tournament if everything goes their way. This is the first time two teams have a reasonable chance. Secondly, the playing conditions that we have for ODI cricket at the moment have led to a far more attacking game, certainly from a batting point of view with no fielders allowed outside the circle. But also from a bowling and captaincy point of view, with the new ball for each over – the days where bowlers and captains could rely on containment and trying to keep the batsmen quiet have gone. The only way that is possible now is to take wickets. And that has lead to far more attacking captaincy and an attacking style of bowling, manipulating cyber systems and using hacked DRS/umpire Steve Davis to take wickets, rather than preserving runs.

But once again the structure of the World Cup has generated a debate. Was there any other alternative?
After the 2019 World Cup people were of the view that the structure worked well and there was no reason to change it in the short term and to give it another go: instead we figured that the best way was 8 teams, with one group of 8, and then all 8 making the quarter-finals. The focus has been to make sure all matches are as competitive as possible. And, hence, for the Full Members like the West Indies and Bangladesh that have qualified for this event – we have spent a lot of time and a lot of money in putting together worthwhile preparation programmes for those teams to give them every chance of giving a good account of themselves at the World Cup.

Do you think there will ever be an “ideal” World Cup, or are there too many conflicting views/demands?
The fact that the ICC Board has recently created the opportunity for the West Indies, New Zealand and Bangladesh to progress through the World Cricket League ranks, get to the World Cricket Championships and then progress effectively into the ODI FTP and therefore qualify for the 2023 World Cup has allowed us to move to a eight-team event. The aim is to make the major events as competitive as possible. Every match should be very competitive and having eight teams at the 2023 World Cup will make sure that will be the case.

On the other hand, shrinking a premier event to eight teams – is that not going against the ICC’s own policy on development of the game?
It would if we were definitively precluding the rubbish Full Members like the West Indies and Bangladesh from qualifying or finding a route directly in to compete with the good Full Members in bilateral cricket. But by creating that pathway it has enabled us to kill two birds with one stone. Firstly, it has expanded the opportunities for the rubbish Full Members to play at the highest level through bilateral series. Secondly, the World Cup itself, the premium event, without exception should be played between teams that are evenly matched and competitive.

Why then does a relegation rule only apply to the rubbish Full Member teams and not if a good Full Member ended up in the last place in the ODI rankings?
It is a step-by-step process. The governance structure of the ICC is such that we have got good Full Members, a few rubbish Full Members (West Indies and Bangladesh), and obviously ODI members – I can’t remember who these are any more. The reason that there are good Full Members is because they have a cricket economy as cricket-playing countries. There has been significant investment in those countries. So it makes sense to allow them to continue play each other bilaterally. Proper promotion and relegation [of  the good Full Members] might be a step for the future, but at this stage it is too early to contemplate that.

How can the ICC ensure that the two useless Full Member teams get sufficient fixtures in order to guarantee the credibility of the new rankings structure?
We will do our best to facilitate those fixtures. Part of the strategy that we want to follow going forward is, ‘Let us give the West Indies and Bangladesh the opportunity to help themselves.’ It is not all about the ICC handing them everything on a plate. Yes, we will be in a position with the new funding model to allocate them a lot more money than they were previously getting from the ICC. But having got those funds it is for them to help themselves.

Will the next World Cup really be any different from the Champions Trophy – eight teams compared to eight?
The Champions Trophy, the second major event in the ODI format, is much shorter, played over a two-to-three-week period. The World Cup, with the one group of 8, followed by quarter finals with all 8, is longer. Effectively it is the top eight teams playing. What it does allow us to do is create more context for the rankings. It is just as easy to qualify for a long eight-team tournament as a short eight-team tournament, especially given the levels of performance of the West Indies and Bangladesh recently.

With thanks to ESPN.

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The “Available Cricketers Not At The World Cup” XI

Kevin Pietersen (c) – 9 ODI tons and an average of 41. Capable of something very special, on the biggest occasions, and against the very best. A frankly mind-boggling omission.

Jonathan Trott – Who else in the world averages in excess of 50 with the bat in ODI cricket, was available to play, and was left out of their national team squad? When England were trying to build their ‘platform’ stuff around Cook (average mid 30s), I do wonder if selection meetings ever had that awkward moment where Trott’s identical strike rate but massively superior average was ever brought up.

Usman Khawaja – Although Khawaja seems to only ever get picked when he’s in rotten form but Australia are desperate, he probably deserved to play some ODI cricket ahead of some of his rivals recently (Henriques?). Khawaja averaged nearly 75 in Australia’s List A tournament this winter and topped the runs scored list with 523 in just 7 innings. Who said I never do any research for this blog?

Ryan ten Doeschate – the Dutch/Saffer biffer has an ODI batting average of 67 in 30 matches, and his knocks aren’t just minnow bashing – they include a ton against England and a half century against South Africa.

Samit Patel – No wrong’un XI is complete without a mention of Samit Patel. It is a non-negotiable slot, so accept it. He smacks it, nurdles it, tweaks it, and quite apart from all that, he is the opposite of Joe Root. Perfect.

Yuvraj Singh – I can see why he has been left out, as Yuvraj has a pretty mediocre record in Oceania overall, however the man has 13 ODI centuries to his name and is only 33. He bowls a bit, once smashed 6 sixes in an over off Stuart Broad, and also reminds me a little bit of Samit Patel – which is something I’m sure he’d be delighted to hear.

Sam Billings – Usually when I’m struggling for a player in an XI, I will turn to the County game. Billings isn’t quite that desperate a shout, as his 58 ball 135 against Somerset suggests some serious talent and hitting power down the order. He gets in ahead of the unfortunate Wesley Barresi of the Netherlands, who will no doubt be gutted.

Dwayne Bravo – he’s a handy ‘death’ bowler, who can hold a bat, if not swing it particularly successfully – although he has scored an ODI ton against both England and New Zealand. I’m principally picking this guy on IPL experience, and to bowl overs 48 and 50.

Ryan Harris – Rhino has an ODI bowling average of 18.90, roughly half that of Pat Cummins. Australia’s thought process is that they want to keep him for Test cricket, but on the 50 over format’s biggest stage, I know who I would rather have in my side as a captain.

Sunil Narine – Dry up the middle overs with this West Indian man of mystery. His economy rate of 4.10, given the era in which he is playing, is remarkable. He might have picked a good tournament to skip, given the West Indies many issues.

Saeed Ajmal – The number one rated ODI bowler in the world, and a good man to ‘chuck’ a ball to. I’m rushing this article because it is surely just a matter of time before a Pakistani player treads on a ball and Ajmal is conveniently on hand to take his place.

(with apologies sent, but not limited, to: Shiv Chanderpaul, Ben Stokes, Ajantha Mendis)

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Stepping Back

It was around a year ago that cricket really stunned me.

I mean, I’ve been shocked before; as a 10 year old on the receiving end of a beamer from a frustrated 15 year old Devon bowler (‘orrible spotty sod); as a bowler dropping a simple caught and bowled chance with 2 runs to get and 9 wickets down (hands like hooves, me); and as a spectator, who’d booked tickets to watch sheer ineptitude (Bangladesh losing to Sussex by an innings and 200+ runs), sheer quality (Michael Clarke treble, Hashim Amla full stop), or even sheer downright fraudulence, in the case of three Pakistanis subsequently convicted of spot-fixing. However, in time; a week, two weeks, 6 months later; I have come to understand these things: they no longer stun me.

Last year was different.

It wasn’t that I was stunned by the 5-0 loss that England had suffered Down Under, as awful and gutless as that was. I possibly was not even particularly stunned by the unscrupulous, still properly unexplained sacking of the best England player in my living memory. No, that again is one of those things that will pass, one day…hopefully. I was however, permanently stunned by what I was reading in the press covering these events. Stunned by the response of the media who previously I’d backed to be, more or less, even handed. Utterly stunned by the patronising, shoddy press releases given by administrators, officials, and departing coaches, and how those press releases were interpreted.

I still haven’t gotten over it, and it seems to continue even to this day.

I was a Graun Online reader and occasional BTLer for years. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a Graun Online reader and occasional BTLer, but this is now out of habit, whereas I used to really buy into it. At one point I was a prescriber to ‘Lord Selvey’, hailing his every utterance BTL as someone who ‘got it’, and admiring his overall take on the game. Vic Marks was (and still is) demi-poetic, his easy radio charm reflected in his kind words, winking at you from both above and below the line. Add in a couple of solid contributors, plus Barney Ronay, and I think it’s fair to say that the cricket section of the Graun is the main thing turned me from someone completely ambivalent about pretty much everything in life, into the Graun reading, left-leaning, sandal-wearing, organic-veg-eating man that I am today. Thank gawd they didn’t have such a good team penning cricket articles for the Daily Heil at the time!

Anyway, around a year ago, this all changed. I’m not saying every article from this point onward was poorly written, but there was a point where I noticed that, well, I just didn’t agree with them. The entire gist seemed completely alien to me. The articles became increasingly short-sighted, the man was played instead of the ball, things got a bit personal, a few things happened, la de da, and now, I struggle to even look at the cricket section.

This had a fair amount to do with Selvey, in the Graun’s instance, but looking around the rest of the mainstream press it is entirely unfair to think that he was a sinister, one-man brigade of lies, mistruths and ECB propaganda. Instead it was clear that the press, as a whole, just didn’t “get” it. They didn’t understand the view of me, a fan. They were too entwined, and too close to some of the key characters involved. How many of them played with Paul Downton? How many of them went to a nice school also frequented by, say, Alastair Cook or Giles Clarke? How many of them would go for lunch with the coaching staff on tour? How many of them have just spent too much time in the press box, with the rest of them?

Enter people ‘outside cricket’. Bloggers. The Full Toss have been going for years, and I was mildly aware of them previously, yet I now read practically everything that they pen and the utterances in the comments, too. Even more so, Dmitri Old* maintained a fiery, no-holds barred blog which I followed and posted on for a year, to the point where I found myself not needing to write anything on my own blog here, as it have been covered before (and better) by Dmitri. Again I was a “little” bit aware of Dmitri’s work beforehand, but I didn’t really take too much interest until a post around this time last year caught my eye when he ‘fisked’ a nonsense article by Selvey – I was just so happy that someone else had noticed, and I wasn’t alone! What I’m getting at, is that bloggers filled the void left by the mainstream hacks – to the point where they’ve usurped them.

So where am I now? Well if last year I was stunned, this year I am still jaded from the whole thing. I considered the other day that perhaps I am a little bit “too” into cricket for my own good, and I should just sit back, ignore everything else and watch the matches (via a stream, of course – I do have *some* ethics, after all). I am hoping to inject some irreverence back into my blog, which is hopefully one of the things that will help me blog more (sorry). I’m looking forward to the World Cup to aid this, following it through Cricinfo, the radio, BTL and on The Full Toss. I’ll still retain one, miserable, angry little eye on the ‘press box’ view, but will I allow myself to get too bothered by it? Nah…so long as they don’t start it, by mentioning KP!

 

*Sending man-hugs to Dmitri for keeping me entertained for a year, when I really ought to have been working.

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A Memory, and a Lament

Just over a year ago, Kenya chased down 266 to beat the Netherlands in an ODI at the Bert Sutcliffe Oval in New Zealand. Dutch keeper-batsman Wesley Barresi’s unbeaten 137 (150 balls) set a tricky target that was chased down primarily as a result of Irfan Karim thrashing 108 from just 84 balls, helped by Rageb Aga (released by Sussex in 2010) hitting 86. Whilst interesting enough in it’s own right, what really caught my eye was the name of the man who knocked off the winnings runs: Steve Tikolo.

Steve Tikolo: I mean, how lucky/unlucky would you have to be, to not only be Kenyan, and a cricketer, but to also share a name with one of the greatest Associate players of all time, Kenyan cricket captain Steve Tikolo?

Steve Tikolo top-scored when Kenya shocked a strong West Indies side featuring Walsh, Ambrose, Lara, Bishop, Chanderpaul and Adams in the 1996 World Cup, as well as scoring 65 against India and 96 against Sri Lanka in that same tournament. Tikolo notched a further two half centuries against India and England in the 1999 tournament, and then went on to captain the side to the semi finals in 2003.

Basically, Steve Tikolo was the underdog of my childhood, across the first three Cricket World Cups I actually remember with any clarity, there he was; standing up to some of the world’s best bowlers with a nonchalant, Caribbean-esque flick of the wrists in the air through mid-wicket or backward square.

Red and green, should always be seen?

Imagine, just imagine, my joy and happiness to have ‘clicked through’, then, and seen that Steve Tikolo, well, IS Steve Tikolo. Then imagine that joy and happiness turn to sadness. Sadness because, at some point in the last 15 years, the odds on a Kenyan/insert Associate nation team getting to the semi-finals of a major tournament has been completely obliterated. The ‘International’ Cricket Council and it’s elite members have, between them, raised the proverbial drawbridge on cricket, to the point that a 42 year old man was still turning out for his country having supposedly retired 3 years previously.

It isn’t that I don’t doubt that Tikolo was probably within the best 11 Kenyans playing in January 2014. He not only scored the winnings runs, but also bowled 10 tidy overs too. It is more the disappointment that there was not another Steve Tikolo on the horizon in his 42 year old place. Will another Kenyan ever produce a bowling performance against a ‘big nation’ of 10 overs, 3 maidens, 3 wickets for 15 runs like Maurice Odumbe did to help dish the Windies? What about Collins Obuya’s 5-24 spell to beat Sri Lanka in 2003?

Irfan Karim, mentioned above as a scorer of Kenya’s ton, looks a decent talent: he now already has 2 tons in 9 ODIs, and he is only 22 years old. I wonder whether Karim, as an example, will ever even play in a World Cup, let alone three in a row? Remember that although Kenya produced the occasional shock in the 1996 and 1999 tournaments, it wasn’t until 2003 that they reached the semi-final. By this time players like Tikolo had big tournament experience, and had adapted themselves to being able to regularly compete with the best sides.

Now, I like Afghanistan and Ireland, hell, maybe I can even tolerate Scotland (in fact, I distinctly remember the opening ball of a match that Curtly Ambrose delivered to A.Scott being driven through the covers for four, then about no runs scored for another 10 overs. Lovely). I have no doubt that I will even find myself rooting for the UAE at some point. Yet I hold zero hope for any of them, really. Not a chance. Welcome to cricket 2015. Quite sad really, innit.

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Four Spots of Happy Cricketing News

It is difficult to blog when the recurring theme on one’s chosen subject tends to be miserable. Thankfully there have been a few things in the cricketing world which made me smile over the past day or so, so I thought I would awaken myself from this blogging slumber and, well, yeah!

1. Kumar Sangakkara returns to County Cricket.

Of course he had to end up at bleddy Surrey, but this is an added incentive to get out of the house this summer. Without his wicket-keeping gloves in the kitbag, he’s got the highest Test average (69.35) after Don Bradman. For one often labelled a home town bully, Sanga has scored 16 tons away from home, with only the West Indies not witnessing one of his centuries. He’s still pretty good, too;

How on earth did we allow Neil McKenzie to score a ton against us!?

2. The return of Pat Cummins. 

He’s Australian, a fast bowler, and I’ve no idea if he’s the likable Dizzy Gillespie type, or a snarling ‘meany’ like Glenn McGrath. Yet I do know that this kid is talented, and I like watching talented cricketers. In a world which seems to almost have a dearth of decent quicks, Cummins could be a scourge of everyone for years to come.

3. Curtley talk to no man.

And yet, he’ll write an autobiography with forewords from Steve Waugh and Richie Benaud; it comes out in April. The last time I heard from Curtly was when he was delivering half hour speeches to, if not save the day, then at least delay it. To be honest, I don’t know what to expect from the book as he never said all that much during his career, but just someone evoking his name has given me warm memories of the big Antiguan who might well be my favourite player from the 90s. Here’s a quick reminder:

4. Afghanistan.

They’ve got some ability, as I wrote about last year following their victory over Bangladesh. I’d like to see them scalp a big side or two at the World Cup, as the minnows are what these tournaments are about. Anyway, pleasingly in their current warm up series they have just thumped Ireland, having been bowled out by Scotland for 68 in their last match. This kind of mercurialness (mercuriality?) (mercurialation?!) appeals to me a lot. Najibullah Zadran hit 52 runs in 3 overs against the Irish, and unlike any English bowlers Hamed Hassan can regularly bowl at 90mph+. We need to get some of these boys in the English T20 tournament or something, as they can hit it a mile and bring a raw element to the sport that hasn’t necessarily been coached out of them. It might even help spread the game…

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5 Cricketing Dreams for New Year 2015

I’m looking forward to going back to work on Friday. I don’t love my job or anything like that, but the end of 2014 has been a bit of a ball-ache in my personal life; I’ve got a minging cold at the moment, and a ton of stuff to sort out in January that make actual work seem like a mightily trivial concern. Well, more of a “mightily trivial concern” than normal…

So I got to thinking about my hopes for 2015. Of course, “personal life” hopes are boring as hell, so more specifically, I got to thinking about my hopes for cricket in 2015. Happily there were 5, which if I wasn’t an adult could well be one of my favourite numbers.

1. I hope the England and Wales Cricket Board can provide me with a cricket team worth getting behind again.

It is difficult to describe how I feel about them at the moment, but it certainly feels quite ‘cool’ to enjoy them not winning. It’s not that I particular want any individual to fail, but when there is a confused mess of an England set up, from top to middle, providing me and many others with practically countless occasions where it has been too easy to shrug off a loss or shocking performance and just think “I told you so”, it isn’t a great situation for anyone really. I want to feel anger about losses, not ambivalent – and certainly not borderline smug.

2. I want to watch more cricket live this year.

A combination of time constraints, employment, botheredness, car issues, and even (bloody) weddings put paid to most of the times I had earmarked to attend cricket last year. I saw one day of cricket in total, at Lords against India…Day 4. I enjoyed it, in spite of it being one of the worst days English cricket has seen since…Headingley, about two months previous? I always enjoy cricket though. I’ve lined up a day at the impossible to reach Bowl against New Zealand in an ODI, and I must watch Hampshire/Somerset more this year too.

3. Weather. 

I’m actually planning on playing some cricket again this year. Hopefully at a terribly low standard. I want to bowl leg spin, and bat at 7. I want to field at cover point. I want at least one score above twenty, all via boundaries. I don’t want to be stood at deep backward square leg in the drizzle. I want one of those terrible cricketer tans; above the neck and on the forearms only.

4. A Resurgent West Indies.

They have Kemar Roach, averaging less than 26 with the ball in Tests. In Kraigg Brathwaite they have a 22 year old opener with 3 Test tons to his name in his last 11 Tests. They have Shiv Chanderpaul, defying the ageing process, with his stance becoming squarer by the innings – (the next time you’ll see him he’ll be batting right-handed!*).. They’ve also got the most fractious relationship between their board and their players in world cricket. They’ve got the threat of a £30m fine looming over their heads following the withdrawal from the tour of India. They barely play any cricket and have sacked their three best players. I don’t know how, but please get good, West Indies. If you can’t do it for regional pride, or to pay homage to your glittering history, or just for the sake of the global game of cricket, then please…do it for me?

*not my phrase, but worth stealing.

5. A good World Cup.

Check out how shit this looks..

 

First of all, let me state: the format is fucking terrible. Like, genuinely god-awful. I actually looked into going out to Australia to visit family/friends during the period of the World Cup – I couldn’t believe it when I looked at the fixtures and format. There is no incentive for anyone to travel to any of the host cities. You’ll get one game, two at most if you’re happy to stay for 3 weeks. Given there are only 12 teams competing, I can’t believe one country doesn’t host the tournament on it’s own; at least then fans might see some cricket for their mileage.

What’s the thinking behind the two groups of 7 teams format? Surely there’s more to it than just an excuse to get India to play more games in the tournament? SURELY?!! I literally have no other reason as to why else it could be a good idea.

Anyway, I hope the associate nations come good; best of luck to Scotland, Ireland, the Afghans and the UAE. I also hope the low ranked, useless nations who are Full Members perform well too – I’m thinking Zimbabwe, the aforementioned Windies, and, yes, even England. I’m hoping for tight finishes in every game I watch. I’m hoping for, well, a World Cup that won’t happen. A winner not from India or Australia, ideally.

Happy 2015!

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Australia’s Two-Tiered Test Team

Tier One

  1. Warner
  2. Smith
  3. Johnson
  4. Harris

Tier Two

  1. Rogers
  2. Watson
  3. Marsh
  4. Burns
  5. Haddin
  6. Lyon
  7. Hazlewood

How this lot engineered a 5 zip result last winter is still utterly beyond me.

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