By ERROL TOWNSHEND
It’s a measure of the mindlessness and misinformation that pervades Canada’s cricketing community that there is mourning over Cricket Canada’s decision to throw the 2012 Under-19 World Cup back into the laps of the International Cricket Council (ICC). Instead, there should be dancing on the pitches.
It was one of the several dumb decisions taken by the Ben Sennek regime which acquiesced in allowing the ICC to foist this tournament on Canada.
We did not bid for it. We were simply told to host it. To its credit, the Sennek gang insisted the ICC pay a hosting fee. This was more than the previous regime did when, against my advice, it allowed the ICC to bankrupt Canadian cricket by hosting the 2001 ICC Trophy, the senior mini-World Cup for Associate countries.
But the hosting fee this time was still chump change. It took Canada eight years following 2001 to dig itself out of bankruptcy. Hosting this 2012 event would likely have put Cricket Canada right back in a deep financial hole.
That the current Cricket Canada board thought it necessary to approach various levels of government for a whopping $2.5 million to put on this event should have turned on the lights in the heads of all those, like OCA president Mike Kendall, now mourning its loss. This is a youth tournament. There are no superstars. No gate receipts. As we found out in 2001, all major advertising receipts go to the ICC. There is no TV revenue coming to Cricket Canada. It’s all spend, spend, spend. It was destined to be a financial bath from the get-go.
There was mad talk of building turf pitches all over Canada for the event, without so much as a thought as to how they would be maintained. One suspects that many of these intended turf pitches would end up in various stages of deterioration, as is the case with the two at Ross Lord Park in Toronto.
Canada is now the second Associate country in the past two years that agreed to host the World Under-19 Cup but no longer will. Kenya spent oodles of money upgrading its grounds in preparation for this past January’s event only to have it yanked away by the ICC and given to New Zealand. No word about any compensation to Kenya for its troubles.
The ICC, in the hopes of competing with soccer, is trying to make cricket into a world game. The game is being spread into countries, including China, that have no cricketing history. It has sought, within the Associate countries like Canada, to bring a level of professionalism to its administration by paying national coaches, CEOs and granting modest central contracts to the top players. This is commendable. But one of the consequences that should have been anticipated is that once you introduce payment to a few volunteers in a hitherto amateur system, other volunteers will want to be paid as well. Thus, a pittance of a hosting fee paid to a governing national body could never compensate for the enormous outlay required to host such an event.
Debt-ridden Caribbean island governments, especially Jamaica, are still picking up the tab for hosting the 2007 World Cup. Cricket Canada, under Sennek, spent some $250,000 of its own money preparing for that event and received not a penny for its pains. Ireland, which shocked the world by advancing to the Super Eights, went home with pennies in its pocket until an embarrassed ICC cut them a one-off, hush-hush-don’t-cry cheque.
Ireland also had its two top batsmen, Ed Joyce and Eion Morgan, pinched by England under eligibility rules skewed heavily in favour of Test countries.
Canada, whose on-the-field performance is now an international joke, is going to the senior World Cup next year. But the money being spent by ICC in helping Canada and other Associates prepare for this TV extravaganza is mostly to ensure that the matches last the full 100 overs, unlike the disaster in 2003 when Canada was bowled out for 36 in the blink of an eye by Sri Lanka. (Pity those poor sponsors whose TV ads never got aired as a result.) So the money-spinning ICC is not exactly the charitable foundation some of the bird-brains in Canada’s cricket community think it is.
Agreeing to host the 2012 Under-19 World Cup was a huge mistake. Thankfully, Cricket Canada has now corrected it. We should all be rejoicing.