A few weeks ago I mentioned that the best way to reinvigorate the supporters of a struggling team was, quite simply, to win.
But there is another way: buy new players.
Look at Arsenal as of late: they have both won and bought players and now the entire Arsenal universe is awash in positivity.
Beat Tottenham, buy Özil, and their problems are solved. Wenger is a genius again, and the entire frustrating summer and the awful loss to Villa are all but forgotten.
Unfortunately, in cricket, international squads do not have this option. Australia cannot, for instance, reload their squad with a simple influx of cash and make the next Ashes series a competitive one. They cannot go out and buy Amla and Steyn and Ajmal. They have to develop talent from within, and that can take years, even decades. Australian cricket supporters are looking at a long road back to where they were in the 90s and 00s – andas they travel that long road they will simultaneously watch in horror as the sport they love slowly but surely ebbs in popularity down under. There is no other option. They are a national team, not a club side, and so have to rely on the talent their country produces.
That last sentence, of course, as we all know, is utter bullshit.
It’s not a black and white anymore when it comes to national team eligibility rules. Not in football, not in the Olympics, and definitely not in cricket.
Looking just at the England team (which is like shooting fish in a barrel): Ed Joyce and Eoin Morgan are Irish; and Craig Kieswetter, Matt Prior, Kevin Pietersen, and Jonathon Trott were all born in South Africa, as were Jade Dernbach and Stuart Meaker.
All a non-English cricketer has to do to play for England is live in England or Wales for four years.
And England is not alone.
Just two weeks ago Australia relaxed their rules on eligibility when it comes to their domestic tournaments in order to “strengthen their talent base.”
It’s all getting a little ridiculous.
So I propose we throw the entire system out the window.
Oh, there will still be an English Cricket Team that trains in England and whose home matches are at English grounds – and a New Zealand cricket team who calls New Zealand home and a South African side that calls South Africa home and so on – but just like how the New York Yankees are not forced to field all New Yorkers, the English cricket team can recruit and buy players from all over the globe, sign them to a contract, and give them a kit with the Three Lions on the left breast.
There will be an outcry from the supporters at first – they will come across as hypocrites because they have been cheering on Kevin Pietersen since 2005 – but sooner or later they will get used to it – just like Minnesota Twins fans don’t care that most Twins players couldn’t find St. Paul on a map, and just like Brits the world over couldn’t care less that Mo Farah was born in Somalia and trains in Oregon. He was wearing the right colors, so they cheered themselves hoarse for him.
It’s 2013, let’s give up on the ill-fated 20th century dream that was Nationalism and find another ism that is better suited to our modern world.
Sure there will have to be financial fair play rules put into place, and maybe some revenue sharing, or something like that, but let’s give up on the joke that ICC and ECB eligibility rules have become and let’s have the best cricketers play the best cricketers. Let’s not make the West Indies wait 20 years to field another competitive side – because waiting that long has all but killed cricket in the Caribbean.
The world has moved on. It has moved away from borders and nationalistic fervor, and sport needs to move on as well. Maybe this an area where our favorite anachronism, the game of cricket, could the lead way for all international sport.
Hey, a guy can dream, right?