ICC Trophy 2001 in Canada

Winners or Losers -Just a matter of Nationality and Visas

Soon after the ICC Trophy in Kenya Barney Miller ,the Argentine Representative at ICC, got on his bike and bicycled round to my former office in Putney. “The tournament in Kenya had gone well but it must be the last of its kind” he said. “The stakes are so high for the winning three the tournament will need to be run professionally in future and there should be professional umpires from the Test countries. There were some poor decisions in vital matches. Regulations must be tightened up or ICC will find itself fighting law suites. USA and Bermuda were very litigious minded quite outside the sort of family of good fellows that characterised the early ICC trophy competitions in the Midlands of England. It was a pity the Kenya team walk out of the presentation dinner in protest at the UAE team since the UAE had acted within the rules of the competition. Obviously the qualification criteria needs tightening up and will be for the next tournament in Malaysia. “ Off he rode on his bike.

The next tournament was more professionally run by the Malaysian Cricket Association and the Government there all as part of a big build up for Malaysia’s International Sports Image. The Commonwealth Games with cricket in it followed the next year. The problem with that competition was the rain and the synthetic pitches. Despite synthetic pitch technology having achieved new heights by then, the ICC took no cognisance of this in specifying the best.    MCA put the contract out to tender and chose the cheapest of several approved suppliers. Whether it was the suppliers fault or the installers or a bit of both, these pitches left a lot to be desired.

The combination of wet run ups and damp synthetic pitches did little to provide a good test of the teams ability to play cricket. What was also unfortunate was the points system agreed and the lack of reserve days so that rain played an important part in some results most notably in eliminating the Dutch side. Once again umpires were sent by all competing countries. They were of varying competance, hardly enhancing the competition’s authority. 

When the Canadian Cricket Association bid for the ICC Trophy 2001 and were awarded it, it did so giving binding assurances concerning grass pitches and visa clearance.  Several new grass tables were laid under ICC supervision and others improved but a ghastly winter meant some of these were unusable for the competition resulting in rescheduling and relocation and the use of some synthetic pitches as well.

 A great deal of discussion had also gone into the format of this competition since there was increasing unhappiness at playing complete mismatches as in previous ICC Trophies. Much argument about the best system eventually produced a format whereby the nations were split into two groups first and second division on the basis of the last ICC Trophy with new comers joining at the bottom. The two divisions were further split in two. It was agreed that all the leading teams should play each other once by the conclusion of the competition to produce an order. Having arrived at this they naturally decided to have a final played by the two top teams to produce a tournament winner. 

Somehow or other having already achieved a third placed team through the league stages ICC then decided the third should play the fourth even if they had already beaten them in the league and there was a large points gap between third and fourth. In the event this is what happened as Scotland third on 10 points having already beaten Canada who were fourth on 6 points lost second time round in the vital qualifying match at the end of the tournament. Thus Canada reached the World Cup with wins while Scotland failed with  wins.

There was always a loud lobby from the ‘second division’ nations that there should be an outside chance for a fast improving ‘new boy’ to be rewarded with the opportunity of still reaching the final. It was therefore finally agreed that the top three of each first division group would go forward, the fifth and sixth would drop out and the fourth would play the top side from the second division. The winners of  these play-offs would then join the top eight making ten. These would then play further matches so everyone had played each other once.

Should a second division winner go forward then they acquired the loser’s record. Namibia beat Bermuda and acquired their record yet still came second with 10 points. UAE beat Uganda and therefore proceeded to the super-eight. Complex indeed but apart from the unnecessary third place play-off pretty fair. It was when the teams were announced that ICC finally lost its marbles.

Several Senior Associates with eyes on a World Cup berth realised that there was an outside chance of Italy emerging from the second division into the final three. Why not? Well there were rumblings that because the Italian side included Italians who had learned their cricket growing up in Australia, South Africa and England this was not in the spirit of the competition. The bad publicity given by UAE’s victory in Kenya was sited as something they did not wish to see repeated. In the end despite protestations from France and Italy that it was not for ICC to say who is or who is  not a Frenchman or an Italian, that is was a matter for Government and Government alone, ICC redefined its own qualification rules.

 For the ICC Trophy 2001 ‘nationality by birth’ no longer means what it says. This now reads nationality by birth if born in the country of that nationality but not otherwise. Secondly they redefined ‘acquired nationality’. In the rules ‘acquired nationality’ refers to those who are granted nationality (usually of their new country of residence) upon application to the authorities of the country concerned but also to those who reacquire ‘lapsed nationality’. ICC now said that although some countries always allow those born of two parents with that nationality to acquire on application their parents nationality ( sometimes only after national service) ICC rejects it.   Of course, it is not within the gift or competence, let alone legal authority, of ICC to decide anyone’s nationality but by doing so very late there was no time for France and Italy to take the ICC to court or at least to the Sports Arbitration Court at Lausanne.

As a result the Italian side, already announced on April 25th, was withdrawn from the competition and France travelled minus several of its first team selection. Thierry Pascal is a Frenchman living in London married to an English girl with a job in London who plays for Reigate Priory CC in the Surrey Championship Premier League. Looking at his French passport he is alleged to have remarked ‘I’m sure I’m more French than most of the those who are going to Toronto”. Well yes, as the French government says and a multitude or more of Pascals in France would indicate. 

This left 23 nations heading for Toronto, a furious Italian Cricket Federation and Sports Ministry cursing at home and a disgruntled France Cricket and Federation de Baseball, Sofball et Cricket most displeased. But there was more to follow. The Canadian Cricket Association’s assurances that all visa applications would be sorted out correctly and in time fell on deaf ears at many of the Canadian High Commissions and Embassies. As a result they were some quite arbitrary refusals together with a complete lack of knowledge of ICC, Cricket as a game, the ICC Trophy and its location in Toronto, Canada. There were thus a lot of cricket officials tearing their hair out and frantic telegrams and emails flying about through May and June.

Because of Canadian Immigration’s idiocy and obduracy teams from Uganda, UAE and Nepal eventually travelled to Toronto leaving behind several first team leading, if not star, players who had to be replaced by players acceptable to Canadian Immigration irrespective of cricketing ability which they agreed they could not judge. Alas poor West Africa. This is a conglomerate of Nigeria , Ghana, Sierra Leone and Gambia who regularly play a quadrangular tournament which Sierra Leone has won the last two times. It is a crazy set up which only MCC in its colonial past would have dreamt up. It has resulted in the starving of funds and development for cricket in these individual countries who apart from their colonial past and Commonwealth membership have as much in common as Scotland, Portugal, Gibraltar and Italy.

Aside of the West Indies no ambitious National Sports Minister is going to invest in a sport that at international level is submerged into a conglomerate. When one of the countries is as large, populous and wealthy as Nigeria it is even more barmy. Well, the WCC picks its multinational team and congregates in Accra for pre tournament preparation. Then the bombshell! The Accra Canadian High Commission has never heard of  ‘West Africa’ as a sporting entity, has certainly never heard of the ‘ICC Trophy’ and is particularly unpersuadable that Canada would be hosting such an international cricket event. “ Very little cricket is played in Canada, if at all “ it is alleged an official remarked while dismissing the possibility of so many visas being granted in less than two months. When Accra was finally informed of the real world and the ICC and its membership and the ICC Trophy, they were still reluctant to grant visas for the Sierra Leonese cricketers. “ Who would want to return to that war torn country once in Canada” surmised a sceptical Accra Canadian High Commission immigration official?

Eventually all the visas were issued but now air tickets had to be rebooked and the result was that West Africa would only arrive at the end of the first league round robins. Requests to ICC and CCA to reschedule West Africa’s matches were met with a resounding No & Non. So West Africa practised a bit and bemoaned its rotten fortune. Further requests for alternative tours to Associates have met with deaf ears especially from the Canadian CA who accept no responsibility and so these cricketers will shake their heads in disbelief at the globalisation plans of ICC as they wend their disappointed way home. Quite what they think of Dr Ali Bacher is not repeateable in any of the one hundred plus living languages of the four countries. For Dr Ali Bacher has gone on record as saying this was the best ICC Trophy yet.

Well it probably was for those who got there except, of course, those teams that lost close matches knowing that but for Canadian Immigration they may have won. There were indeed a great many close matches won by a few runs and also off the last ball making it a good tournament to watch as a neutral. Most narked by it all and with no shortage of clout to argue its case is UAE who finished level on points with Canada but having lost a match narrowly to Canada was placed fifth. ‘With our missing players we would certainly have beaten Canada, Namibia and even Scotland’ asserts a Emirates Cricket Board spokesmen.

So Malcolm Speed is by now wondering what sort of a hornets’ nest he has walked into in the Clock Tower at Lord’s. “The best ever’ says Ali Bacher who has also announced a proposed tournament for the ICC Trophy ‘three winners’ in Namibia plus Kenya and two A sides from South Africa and Zimbabwe for next April. ‘By far the worse’ should be his assessment for its aftermath is likely to drag on for a long time doing yet more harm to ICC’s image as a serious World Governing sports body. The format was floored with respect to third place. The nationality redefinition was illegal and unfair being so close to the competition’s start. The immigration issues falsified many results and may have effected the final placings which in view of the huge largesse($1million) being thrown at the elite squads of the three qualifiers plus Kenya is all the more unfortunate. The game of cricket may well be further side lined in four West African countries. There are likely to be several legal challenges to ICC following this tournament.

This is a very silly state of affairs which perhaps Barney Miller and his ‘amateurish colleagues’ as far as the International Sports Tournament business is concerned but ‘worldly and experienced’ in other spheres would have avoided.   Whether the eager young people employed at ICC and the clumsy committee structure will sort this mess out is another matter. “There is no mess”, they beam out at one “This was the best ICC Trophy ever’.


**   Italy withdraws From ICC Trophy 2001  Full Details

Eventually a tour to East and Central Africa was proposed for West  Africa in the new year and then that changed to Malaysia. Presumably ICC will be funding this and someone will be having a chat to the employers of these amateur cricketers. In the end no such tour took place.

**   Subsequently West Africa was broken up with Nigeria being an Associate member and the other three being initially  Affiliates despite Sierra Leone having beaten Nigeria regularly without an expat in sight.   Subsequently Sierra Leone and Ghana became Associates.

**  Then ICC introduced a new format of qualifying competitions by Continents leading to a slimmed down ICC Trophy for 2005.

**  Following serious threats from the Italian government to sue ICC over its illegal definition of nationality ICC took legal advice and relented revertjng to the pre 2001 competition criteria, tough titty for Italy and France! Italy was not pleased with their placing in Division 2 of the European Competition. Previously they were in Division 1 and had beaten Denmark and indeed an ECB XI famously in a previous play-off to get there. As a result Italy has to compete in a further competition in Malaysia in order to win through to the ICC Trophy 2005. Italy’s problem this time is that its euro based cricketers are out of season but far worse its Australians will require contract compensation if they are to play!


ICC Trophy Winners 2001 Largesse

Netherlands, Namibia and Canada win through to join Kenya as the four non Test counties in the next ICC World Cup in South Africa. Both Netherlands and Canada have played in a World Cup before. 
 This will be the first time for Namibia. These three together with Kenya will share a $1million investment package from ICC to help prepare them for the next World Cup. A lot of development money for around 60 cricketers.

Full Tables 2003 ICC World Cup

Canada beat Bangladesh by 60 runs but were out for 36 to Sri Lanka. Netherlands recorded one win over Namibia.

Bas Zuiderent the Dutch cricketer contracted to Sussex declined to play in the 2001 ICC Trophy but played in the 2003 World Cup.

In September 2001 the late Tony Munro interviewed all the captains about the ICC Trophy in his Cricinfo series Beyond the Test World More

WCC International Cricket