Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Criced Cymru

In light of Cardiff hosting a one-day international between England and South Africa a few weeks ago, Mohammad Ashgar AM called for Wales to establish a full national cricket side. How would this happen?

It is important to note at the outset that Wales does have a history of competing in international cricket. The first match was against Scotland in Perth in 1923 and Wales beat the West Indies in 1928. Half a century later Wales competed in the first ICC Trophy, a tournament for non-Test playing nations, won by Sri Lanka. More recently Wales have played England in 50-over games, winning handsomely in 2002 (admittedly with the distinctly non-Welsh Jacques Kallis on board).

Many Welshmen have been of Test match standard over the years, not all of whom were selected by England. The most notable and recent is Simon Jones who played such a big part in the 2005 Ashes success. Others include Simon's father Jeff, who won fifteen caps for England in the 1960s, and Robert Croft, who played twenty-one times for England between 1996 and 2001.

Glamorgan of course are the only first-class County side in Wales and so any Welsh line-up would inevitably be made up of many Glamorgan players. At the beginning at least, it could be that Welsh-born cricketers play for Wales in one-dayers, including the World Cup, but for England in Test matches. Ed Joyce played one-dayers for Ireland before winning Test caps for England.

A Wales Minor Counties team has existed since 1988 and competes in the Minor Counties Championship. Glamorgan themselves used to play in this competition until they were awarded first-class status in 1921. Wales Minor Counties also played in what was the NatWest or C&G Trophy - 'the FA Cup of cricket'. However, the format was altered in 2006, leaving no place for a Wales side.

So how might Wales get their own national cricket team?

Scotland have shown us the way. Scotland resigned from the UK Cricket Council (then superseded by the England and Wales Cricket Board, or ECB) in 1992 and two years later were elected to Associate membership of the International Cricket Committee. They qualified for the 1999 and 2007 World Cups and have since played in several other international tournaments, winning the inaugural ICC Intercontinental Cup. Capturing the ICC Trophy in 2005 meant that Scotland gained temporary first-class One-Day International Status in January 2006.

Currently it is the Welsh Cricket Association that looks after the amateur game in Wales. The Association is a member of the England and Wales Cricket Board, commonly referred to as the ECB with the W conveniently dropped. (Even the website is Wales would have to break from the ECB and become an Associate or Affiliate member of the ICC to be able to enter the ICC World Cup Qualifier (formerly ICC Trophy). It is performing well in this competition that confers qualification for the World Cup.

There are many Welshmen at the top of the game. David Morgan, former Glamorgan and ECB Chairman, is now President of the International Cricket Committee, Tony Lewis - nine times capped by England - is Chairman of the MCC, and Hugh Morris (three caps) has worked for the ECB for many years and is currently Managing Director of England Cricket.

Ashgar's Plaid colleague Adam Price tabled an Early Day Motion in 2002 that expressed the desire for a Welsh national team to compete in the World Cup. Now that Ashgar has raised the issue once again, maybe the Assembly can put pressure on the top brass to give serious consideration to the proposal.

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