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Renaissance Of Cricket: A Step Towards Becoming A Global Sport
The BCCI, then led by Jagmohan Dalmiya, had a herculean task of reviving the love for cricket in India and he found the perfect ally in Sourav Ganguly
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A machine is effective with all its parts operating in tandem. From the biggest rotors to the smallest nut & bolt, every single component is significant. The Avengers make a fantastic team to watch on screen. They maximise the potentials of each of the super heroes to act as a united superforce. The endurance of Captain America needs innovation of Iron Man which is accentuated by the power of Hulk. In short, they channelise individual strengths to become a collaborative force.
The World of Cricket resembles the Avengers in more than one way. There are 10 super powers working in unison to propagate the game. But, the acceptance of the sport remains a challenge to be fulfilled. The ICC or the S.H.I.E.l.D of Cricket has also figured out a way to maximise the reach for the sport. The solution is the expansion of the superpowers by being accommodative of the other lesser known forces in Cricket. It's important for Cricket to understand that creating and managing a Hulk is tougher but empowering others to be Iron Man is feasible.
The winds of change had started blowing in the country that emotes with the game like no other. India, in the 80's and 90's, produced cricketers from selected cities and zones. They were champion Cricketers no doubt, but for a country with a population of one billion and unadulterated passion for the game, the talent pool needed to expand. The match fixing scandal was an assault on Cricket culture in India & the game actually started losing out on a loyal fan base. The BCCI, then led by Jagmohan Dalmiya, had a herculean task of reviving the love for cricket in the fans and he found the perfect ally in Sourav Ganguly. A captain who was outspoken and clear in his mind about leading the side & a New Zealand veteran Cricketer working silently behind the scenes to prepare team India to be the best in the World, were working in tandem to change the Cricketing culture of India. Ganguly came from Kolkata, a traditional cricketing hub of India. But, his approach opened the doors of the Indian team for youngsters in the country. It was a bold decision to back youngsters in that era because India associates emotions with cricketers as much as it does with the game itself. John Wright instilled confidence in the youngsters making them understand their roles in the team and then worked with them to help them get better at it.
Sourav had ushered in some necessary disruption in the system by introducing the likes of Kaif, Yuvraj & Harbhajan. Taking a young Under-19 talent from Vadodara, Irfan Pathan, on a tour to Australia and backing him as a frontline bowler in Pakistan, showed that Ganguly was willing to take risks to take the game forward. He picked a rookie wicketkeeper batsman from Ranchi and backed him despite no significant initial success. Little did anyone know, that the same strong boy from Ranchi would be the most successful captain of India and become the toast of the country. Dhoni's emergence flagged off a refreshing change in dynamics of Cricket and India started looking beyond the realms of Shivaji Park in Mumbai and the traditional stronger Ranji teams. For all the youngsters who did not belong to the bigger circuits of Cricket in India, there was hope and belief to don the Indian Jersey one day.
Looking at the broader perspective, the rise of Kenya in the World Cup in 2003 raised many eyebrows. Kenya making the semifinals was beyond imagination for the ardent of Cricket fans in the World. Kenya, however, fell apart later. There were flashes of brilliance from the minnows at the World events since then with Netherlands beating England in the World T20 & Bangladesh beating Australia in England. But, a defining performance was the need of the hour for the minnows to get noticed. Ireland's performance at the 2007 World Cup in West Indies turned out to be the beginning of a much required change. Since then, Ireland have gone from strength to strength proving that they are no pushovers in any game. Their win over England in the 2011 World Cup, while chasing a total in excess of 300, was testimony to the intent and progress that they have made. Another inspiring and heart-touching story has been the journey of Afghanistan. From a country torn in war and crisis, Cricket became a source for smiles and Afghanistan have ensured that they latch on to the opportunities. Their win over the current World T20 champions, West Indies in the recently concluded World T20, was enough to suggest that Afghanistan have indeed arrived at the international stage.
After a brief period of uncertainty, Bangladesh have risen from the ashes to become a side to reckon with. From a team that packed itself with spinners to strangulate batsmen, they have now become the side that flaunts arguably the best young fast bowler in the World in Mustafizur Rehman. And, it isn't a one man show from Bangladesh now. Mustafizur's guile has able support in raw pace of Taskin and the ever reliable Shakib to hold everyone together. Nassir Hossain, Shabbir Rehman, Tamim Iqbal have all knit together to make Bangladesh a strong force in International Cricket.
Their series wins over India and South Africa showed exactly why they are the team to watch out for in the near future. A place in the quarter finals of the 2015 World Cup in Australia & New Zealand, showed that Bangladesh are not the slow track wonder boys as they were once considered to be. As the pre-series advertisements during India vs Bangladesh series said, the boys have now become men to reckon with!
The ICC has hit the nail on the head with the thought of introducing the promotion and relegation system. After the decision to try out the series based points system, this is another progressive and proactive thought by the World body. The decision, if & when executed, must not be looked at as just another initiative. This could truly bring in change in the Cricketing landscape. The series bases point system will empower the underdogs to keep fighting in the series and dead rubbers will gain significance. The promotion & relegation will ensure that the teams will have to take the game a few notches higher. The teams sitting pretty in the rankings will now have to demonstrate consistency to stay in the race while teams like Ireland and Afghanistan will have an opportunity to earn a place in the league of the giants.
Twenty20 is a format that is relatable to the grassroots. Hence, the thought of the ICC to allow all the 105 members to play international T20 cricket makes perfect sense. Every cricket fan has harnessed dreams of seeing a World Cup which comprises of more than 32 teams. The ICC has shown willingness to believe that Cricket needs to be World sport in every sense and this is surely a step towards ensuring that.
For all the flak that they get for rules and relevance of formats and matches, this is one initiative for which the ICC deserves a pat on the back. Change is the essence of staying relevant. Every fan of Cricket in the world will hope that this renaissance of Cricket ushers in at the earliest and engulfs the World to expand the Cricketing landscape.
All we can say to Cricket is: May the Force be with You!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.