World Cricket’s landscape has changed in the recent few years with the emergence of new countries taking part in global ICC events. And European region is definitely not left behind. In fact, all the major headwinds have been coming from the European region, especially.
ICC’s decision of awarding Test status to Ireland in June 2017 meant that now there are 2 Full members with Test membership from the European region, England & Ireland. Then came the decision of awarding the 13th place in their newly proposed ICC ODI League to the winners of the ICC World Cricket League (50-overs format competition for top 8 Associate countries).
What was significant at that point of time is that a European country, Netherlands were leading the points table with another European country, Scotland also in the running for the Championship. As it happened at the conclusion of the event, Netherlands won the title and now stand to gain ODI status for their achievement to play in the next ODI League from 2020-2022. And with the FTP (Future Tours Program) in place from 2019-2023, Netherlands will host 4 home series in the 2 years of ODI League competition. Quite an achievement after a hiatus of 4 years from 2014-2018 without ODI status.
Add Scotland to the mix, who also kept their ODI status following their campaign in the ICC World Cup Qualifiers in Mar 2018 in Zimbabwe and suddenly, the ODI landscape in Europe looks more secured than ever. And then came the major one when Scotland managed to beat their much fancied opponents, England and again raise the point of getting more in terms of funding and fixtures to continuously improve their position in World Cricket.
Surprising as it sounds, Europe does not have a tournament like Asia Cup for the top countries in the region. If one looks beyond the above mentioned 4 countries, there are others like Jersey, Guernsey, Germany, Italy, Denmark, to name a few, who have shown significant progress in their cricket programs in the past couple of years.
Jersey, Guernsey, Germany and Italy were part of ICC WCL Division 5 held in Sep 2017 in South Africa and Europe actually made up 50% of the total participating teams in the 8-team event. Sweden, Finland and Estonia played the Nordic-Baltic T20 tournament in 2017 and the recently held ICC Europe Nordic conference showcased the vision of future growth and collaboration between the countries to strengthen cricketing relations.
Denmark are now part of ICC WCL Division 3, which will be held towards the end of 2018 and they have a significant chance to gain promotion to Division 2. More exposure for them in 50-overs format, maybe??
The time is perfect, in our view to have Cricket’s own version of Euro Cup, which could be either played in the ODI or T20 format. A 5-nation ODI or 6-nation T20 Euro Cup will be ideal for European countries to build better relations with each other and also spread the game awareness in new markets. Other Associate countries in the European region can play a qualifying tournament to decide the countries who would get the opportunity to play alongside the big boys of Europe. It could either be a 5/6 nation qualifiers or else a qualifier from each regional qualifiers in the European continent. Either way, a more contextual program to ensure continuous cricket fixtures for the members other than the usual 4.
A time will definitely come when countries would send 2 teams to 2 different parts of the globe to represent them in different formats of the game. So, if England do not have the first strength team available to send to Euro Cup, there are enough players on the fringe of England selection, who could easily make up the XI to play in the Euro Cup.
For countries like Ireland, Netherlands & Scotland, it would be an opportunity to try the next batch of youngsters, who are on the selection radar to play at International level and make a mark.
Time for change, ICC Europe?? We can only forecast a positive future if anything on these lines can become fruitful in the coming years. Although it would be interesting to see the stance of ECB towards such an initiative but some kind of talks on the lines of a Euro Cup will be welcomed by everyone in the region with them being the Major Cricket Board in the region.