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Not very long ago, 2011to be precise, teams like Kenya got the opportunity to play against a giant cricket nation like Sri Lanka at the ICC World Cup (Pic courtesy: www.srilankacricket.lk)

The International Cricket Council (ICC) is well aware of the growing number of nations playing the sport. In fact, this rapid growth of cricket playing nations has now become a concern with most member countries of the ICC, requesting one
membership  status for all. Right now, there are two categories where membership status is concerned. There are 10 countries, including Sri Lanka, which enjoy full ICC member status. But, there is a group of 38 nations that demands the immediate attention of the ICC. This is because all signs at present point towards a more equal playing field for all cricket playing nations.

Teams like Afghanistan, Ireland, Scotland, the UAE and Oman have shown enough potential to demand a larger slice of cricket’s cake. Right now, all the attention is on the 10 Full ICC Member nations. This in a way pushes the other cricket playing nations to second grade status. But it is essential to note that, other than England, all the elite cricket playing nations had to grind their way into the limelight. Nothing was easy for them before it was hard.

Two nations that share great similarities in cricket, India and Sri Lanka, had to shove away a lot of elitism before the game was opened to the masses. These two Asian cricket giants experienced the attitude of the founders of cricket, the Englishmen, at the early stage of their exploits in cricket. These Asian nations eventually earned the respect of the Englishmen by raising their performances in cricket.

The Sri Lankans earned Test status in 1982 when they played against England in Colombo. But the islanders had to wait two years before they were granted their first Test at The Lords. To be precise, the Englishmen showed scant respect for the Sri Lankans and heavily underestimated them when the visitors arrived in England. But breathtaking knocks with the willow by Sidath Wettimuni, Duleep Mendis, Amal Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga and brilliant bowling by Asantha De Mel and Vinothan John helped the visitors outplay the Englishmen in that memorable Test which was drawn. Still, England refused to give Sri Lanka enough Test matches, as it would give a country like Australia. That’s an interesting piece of history, regarding the long trek Sri Lanka has made in its journey in Test cricket.

Now, we hear the ICC is  entertaining proposals made by some cricket playing nations to split Test cricket into two tiers with seven nations in one and five including two new Test nations in the other. SLC President Thilanga Sumathipala told media representatives during a press briefing held in Colombo on Wednesday (July 6) that Sri Lanka opposed this proposal. However, Sumathipala said that he, SLC, supported the view that Test cricket should be played over a four day period with 100 overs allocated to each team.
With so many views being forwarded by administrators representing countries enjoying ICC Full Membership, it seems cricket will be subject to a revamp soon. But purists will always wish to see the face of cricket remain unaltered. This is because cricket is a sport which gives status to individuals as well as nations. Test playing nations like West Indies and Sri Lanka at one time were more known for the struggle against poverty. Cricket gave these two nations a solid structure to lean on. At present, these two cricket playing nations have used the sport to share the same social status in a world platform along with top nations like England, Australia and South Africa. It’s amazing what wonders this discipline called cricket can do.

Cricket should be accessible to all countries having membership with the ICC. There is no contest in that. There should be more opportunities for Associate Member countries to play against the giants enjoying Full ICC Member status. However, it will serve the game well if the ICC retains the path that a minnow needs to take to get battle-hardened and ready to play against the big boys.