Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Paddy's Sports View 8th February 2005

From the "Emirates Evening Post"

As is the case for senior managers in so many areas of modern life one of the key challenges for top sports administrators is to find the right balance between the need for change and the need to preserve good traditions from the past. Global sports such as Cricket have undergone major changes in recent times in response to challenges that are (in particular) caused by the greater commercialisation of the sports.

Sport has to reflect the mores and behaviours of the times. A sporting world where the principle driver is often commercial, and the principle measure of success the amount of income generated by an event or paid to a sports star, is very different from the mainly amateur world of less than 50 years ago. But when sports administrators consider issues which could lead to a significant change to their sports they need measures and advice which go beyond the strictly commercial. Cricket, in particular, is a sport which has a huge inheritance from the past and part of the charm of the sport is that those of us who love it wish to see all the good traditions preserved. Some of these traditions may seem somewhat barmy to those who are not steeped in the sport. To play a five day Test match only for it to end in a draw may seem odd to some who feel that sport always has to have a winner (try explaining it to an American!). But no-one (I hope) would suggest that if at the end of a Test match the game ended in a draw there should be some sort of “tie-breaker”. Draws are part of the game - which brings me to the whole area of cricket records and statistics.

Cricket is a sport in which the variants of types of game are greater than any other. It is played over any period from one to five days. Limited overs matches range from 20 overs to 50 overs per side and the Laws are amended depending on the type of game. What constitutes a “First Class Match” is subject to a rigorous check by the cricket gurus and the same applies (with even greater rigour) to the definition of what is a Test Match and what is an “official” One Day International. In the latter case, in recent times at any rate, there has been little room for debate. There are Test playing countries and when they play one another over five days in a properly sanctioned event then it is a Test Match. Similarly when these countries along with a number of others (like Canada or the UAE) play one another in sanctioned 50 Over “Limited Overs” matches then it is an official One Day International (ODI). All cricket records reflect the established practice that Test matches and ODIs have been played on this basis. But it is possible that this is about to change. The International Cricket Council Executive Board has ruled that the Tsunami relief matches between Asia and the Rest of the World (ROW) will be given official ODI status. Further there is pressure on the ICC Board from their own Chief Executives’ Committee to accord the same status to the one day matches to be played between Australia and the ROW later this year (the so-called “Super Series”) – and even to give Test match status to the six day match to be played at the same time.

The cricket world can be proud of the Tsunami matches which did everyone involved great credit. But there is absolutely no need to distort cricket’s records by calling them official ODIs (which they patently were not). There is even less justification to call the upcoming “ICC Super Series” official ODIs or the six day match a “Test match”. The ICC’s rules clearly state that ODIs and Test matches can only be played between countries. The ICC can change its rules, of course. But to do so would distort cricket’s records to no benefit other than some expectation that the matches would be more commercially successful if they are accorded “official” status for statistical purposes. If the ICC wants to ignore tradition and history solely because they think that the income streams from sponsorship and media rights would be higher then that is an example of a sporting administrator which has got its priorities all wrong. But I wouldn't put it past them!'