MUMBAI (Reuters) - The rise of Afghanistan shows that cricket’s governing body is succeeding in its drive to increase the popularity of the sport globally, ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said.
Critics have been sceptical of the ICC’s efforts in spreading the game around the world after it decided to strip the 2015 one-day international World Cup, to be held in Australia and New Zealand, to 10 teams from 14.
But Lorgat pointed to the impact Afghanistan made when they sparked wild celebrations back home after blazing into the final of the Asian Games cricket event last November.
“We’ve got fantastic world cricket leagues and the rise of Afghanistan for example through that particular league structure helps to sell a story,” Lorgat told Reuters in an interview this week.
”You can always do more and better. But it’s a question of how much resource you are to employ in that sort of thing.
“We have had building blocks for a couple of years and the last two or three years we have been more focused on participation and performance and those results are being packaged and told now.”
Afghans were beaten in the Asian Games final by Bangladesh, but beat Pakistan earlier in the tournament.
Last September they also romped to victory in a Twenty20 tournament in Pakistan, beating a team that included Imran Nazir and Rana Naved and underlining Afghanistan’s emergence as a serious cricket-playing nation.
In light of such success stories, top international cricketers disagree with the ICC’s idea of excluding the associate nations from the showpiece event.
“Of course the emerging nations should stay in it. Why would you want to take the world out of the World Cup? Shocks can happen,” England off-spinner Graeme Swann told the March issue of The Wisden Cricketer magazine.
“They don’t play big international series, so it’s only fair that they are allowed to participate in the World Cup. They can learn so much and improve,” India’s middle-order batsman Suresh Raina added.
Experienced Kenyan batsman Steve Tikolo, whose team might miss out on the 2015 World Cup due to the ICC decision, said the tournament gave them the stage to show their talent.
“The World Cup offers us the chance to test ourselves against the test nations which we rarely do nowadays,” he told the magazine.
“If we can do well, then we can really push our case to have more games against the bigger teams.”
(Additional reporting by Jon Bramley; editing by Pritha Sarkar; to query or comment on this story, email firstname.lastname@example.org)