Prem Panicker

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Prem has been writing about cricket since 1996 -- and sometimes wishes he hadn't.

That sinking feeling

In all the ongoing debate about whether the minnows should, or should not, be part of cricket's biggest stage, there is one aspect that gets little or no consideration: the feelings of the minnows themselves.

Former Test opener Aakash Chopra remedies that, in a column for Yahoo that asks: Do you know what it means to feel inadequate? Aakash has been there, done that:

Their predicament reminds me of my time in the Dutch league. Ours was the weakest club in the group and despite out best efforts, we couldn't cross the finishing line. We took the first few losses on the chin and increased the number of hours in every practice session. But when the chain of losing matches didn't break for another few weeks, the spirit within the team shattered. The numbers at practice sessions started to dwindle and the matches became a drag. There's nothing worst in sport than the knowledge that you're the second best even before the encounter. Yet, there would be certain individuals in every team who would take it upon themselves to stand up and get counted, but even their efforts go in vain. Cricket is a team game, individuals can provide the spark but it takes the entire team to light a bonfire. Doeschate, Kevin O'Brian etc are these sparks but, unfortunately, lack the support.

So, should we just dump these teams and leave them to their own devices? Or we invest energy, money and time to develop cricket in these countries and make cricket a truly global game? Former is the easier option but latter is the way forward. We must remember that teams like India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan were the 'minnows' and everyone's punching bag a few decades ago. But now are serious contenders with a World Cup trophy already in their cabinet.

There's some talk of 'solving' this by including more 'minnows' in the World T20 competitions, while keeping them out of the ODI World Cup -- which is a screw-up posing as a solution. The problem is not the inability of the smaller teams to last 50 overs of stiff competition -- the real problem is that the ICC, for all its lip service to the cause of the associate nations, forgets all about them once the quadrennial showpiece event is over.

The real solution? If you want the minnows to be competitive, help them compete. Make it mandatory for the full members to send their A teams on tours of the top six, eight associate nations. Get teams from these countries included in the domestic competitions of the member nations. And so on. If you give an associate nation 3, 4 games between World Cups, how on earth can they ever hope to improve?

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