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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 29, Dated July 25, 2009
ICC: A Century of Cricket  
history & heritage

The Survival Of A Game

Despite100 years of a tumultuous journey, cricket still thrills millions


Trendsetter Kerry Packer created waves with his World Series Cricket in 1978

100 YEARS IS a long time and the founders of the International Cricket Council are no longer around to celebrate with us the Council’s centenary. But that doesn’t stop me from wondering what those founding fathers, led by Sir Abe Bailey, the South African who was behind what was first known as the Imperial Cricket Conference, would make of all that’s gone on in cricket since. After all, since South Africa, England and Australia came together to form the Conference back in 1909, our membership has risen from three to 104 at the start of 2009.


Founded as the Imperial Cricket Conference by England, Australia and South Africa

‘Cricket is the greatest thing that God ever created – certainly greater than sex’

Test-playing countries have also increased from those three to ten; Test matches now last five days and pitches are permanently covered, all unheard of back then. But though these changes have been momentous, they are just the tip of the iceberg in the development and evolution of our great sport. Some changes, such as limited-overs cricket that began among first-class sides in the 1960s, were revolutionary. After all, one of the first things the founders did was play a triangular tournament in 1912. Though marred by bad weather and a weak South African side, multilateral events eventually came back into fashion, went from strength to strength and are now a major part of the ICC’s activities.

We now have three forms of international cricket. Tests were joined by One-Day Internationals and T20 cricket to form a hat-trick of outstanding formats. Through a series of limited-overs tournaments, including the Cricket World Cup, the Champions Trophy and World T20, the ICC has now become the main source of income for most of its Members. Those events generate income partly because the media — television, radio and the Internet, in particular — have helped make cricket into a hugely popular sport. Media overage is bigger and better than it was even 20 years ago and businesses now see the value in associating with our great sport.

Of course, the past 100 years haven’t all been plain sailing. Bodyline in the 1930s, the isolation of Apartheid-era South Africa and Kerry Packer’s rebel tours, coloured clothing, day-night cricket, the white ball and modern day match-fixing – upheavals have periodically rocked international cricket. But the game has shown such resilience and such an uncanny ability to survive and prosper that now, in its centenary year, the ICC can lay claim to the second biggest sport in the world, impressive progress by any measure.

Bodyline in the 1930s, the boycott of South Africa, coloured clothing — periodic upheavels have rocked cricket

And cricket continues to develop. Though women’s cricket had a World Cup two years before the men, in 1973, but it wasn’t until 2005 that it came under the ICC’s wing. Four years on, we have quadrupled the number of Members with organised girls and women’s activities and in 2009 the Women’s World Cup and the World T20, both providing more global exposure for women cricketers than ever before.

The minutes of ICC meetings 50 years ago reassure us that scheduling, bowling actions and bad light were as vexing then as they are for us now. Has the game, therefore, been run poorly in the intervening years and have we failed to resolve longstanding issues? No. Cricket, like most things today, is a complex beast. The game will continue to evolve and if, in 100 years’ time, it is as popular as it is now, the chances are that our successors — players, administrators and supporters — will still be presiding over what we have today – a great sport with a great spirit.

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 29, Dated July 25, 2009

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