The curtain came down on the inaugural Desert T20 in Dubai on Friday night, ending a week-long tournament relished by the Associate Nations taking part.
Afghanistan claimed the crown, beating Ireland in a one-sided final in front of over 15,000 fans that came out to cheer the Afghans to glory.
For anyone who has experienced cricket in the UAE, it was a refreshing sight, the atmosphere unlike the majority of sporting events in the country that typically entice sparse crowds.
It was a great advertisement for the tournament, which proved a hit among the teams and certainly resonated with Afghanistan supporters who made for a spectacle every time their team played.
Initial feedback from all involved is that they want the Desert T20 to become a regular fixture and, here, we look at five things that could make future editions an even greater success.
MAKE IT A REGULAR DATE ON THE CALENDAR
Each captain and coach came to press at their nation’s conclusion calling for this tournament to become an annual event and for the Associates it is a must.
More fixtures and competition between each other seemed to invigorate the players who are all desperate for more matches.
With nations putting in measures to go full-time, contracts being granted their top players and the looming prospect of reduced World Cups to take into consideration, the Desert T20 offers hope of progressing the game in cricket’s fledgling countries.
An annual event would guarantee at least a week in the calendars of these countries and keep these nations progressing on the pitch, while providing opportunity to players like Ireland’s Jacob Mulder and UAE’s Zahoor Khan – standout debutants in this tournament – to make their mark.
A sentiment echoed by all captains. https://t.co/4re47poQFG— Barny Read (@BarnabyRead) January 20, 2017
CREATE A 50-OVER VERSION
UAE captain Amjad Javed was first to suggest this the past week and it makes perfect sense.
The majority of these teams see their opportunities limited to 20-over cricket, UAE an example of how any longer format struggles to survive in the country from the domestic game upward.
It proves a hindrance when the 50-over World Cup qualifying and World Cricket League Championship or even Intercontinental Cup matches come around, with such little experience beyond cricket’s gateway drug of Twenty20 cricket.
A 50-over version would provide invaluable experience of the format and, if timed ahead of World Cups, serves as ideal preparation that should end any idea of the teams then being unable to compete on the bigger stages.
BRING MORE TEAMS ON BOARD
The more Associate and Affiliate Nations involved, the better.
Everyone will want to benefit from greater opportunity and increased exposure will ensure all countries reap the rewards.
It will also allow the ICC to spread even further into the outreaches, an ambition it has but is yet to get anywhere near close to fully realising.
Bringing on a team like Nepal would also ensure, like Afghanistan, that an already established cricket-mad nation would have their eyes on the tournament and bums on seats in the stadiums.
SECURE A CREATIVE BROADCAST DEAL
The ICC’s mega deal with ESPN-Star means all sanctioned ICC series with four or more teams must go to the broadcaster.
As a result, the tournament’s official go-ahead just weeks before the first ball was bowled meant that Star were unable to fit the tournament into their broadcast schedule at such late notice with India-England currently bossing TV guides.
That will surely all change if the tournament returns as expected and, again, that exposure of global broadcasting will surely benefit the Associates in the long run and help them garner interest both inside and out of their country’s respective borders.
The tournament also suffered in its position as a non-commercial tournament in that no live streaming could be broadcast but the potential was already being harnessed by the ICC’s digital highlights.
They must be applauded for bringing on board Sharp Focus to deliver these daily videos which saw a number of them go viral online, proof that the digital market is primed to take cricket among the Associates global and that there is a thirst to see them in action at the touch of their fingertips.
BRING ON BOARD SPONSORS
As a non-commercial event it also meant to advertising could be sold and no title sponsorship available for companies to vie for.
Any such deals going forward would be of great benefit for all involved, most importantly the teams.
Organisers will obviously want to recoup any outlay but to see them rake in potential profit and the money not be funnelled back into the growth of Associate cricket but would be a real shame.
This is a great opportunity for any future revenue to lay further seeds of development in these countries, possibly put into an Associate kitty for projects and facilities that they could bid for.
It could even be directed towards stumping up the money for potential matches with full-member nations to be given ODI, T20I or first-class status that improve ranking points and apply a certified stamp to fixtures that are so often palmed off due to exorbitant costs borne by the minnows.
England opening batsman Alex Hales has been ruled out of the third ODI and T20I series against India due to a hand injury he suffered during the second ODI at Cuttack on Thursday.
Hales will be replaced in the England T20I squad by Jonny Bairstow. The Yorkshire batsman has been in terrific form in Test cricket over the last year, but has not been a regular fixture of the limited overs XIs.
With Hales unavailable for Sunday’s ODI at Kolkata, England must source a replacement. Sam Billings is favourite to take the spot, Bairstow also in contention.
India has already won the three-match ODI series after taking an unassailable 2-0 lead thanks to wins in high-scoring games at Pune and Cuttack.
The ODI series will be followed by three T20Is, scheduled to take place at Kanpur, Nagpur and Bengaluru.
Gutted to be heading home early. Best of luck to the lads for Sunday and the t20 series #INDvsENG— Alex Hales (@AlexHales1) January 20, 2017
Having already lost the ODI series against India, England were dealt with another blow as they were fined for a slow over-rate in the second ODI at Cuttack.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) released a statement on Friday, stating that the English players were fined 10% of their match fee while captain Eoin Morgan was fined 20%.
“Andy Pycroft of the Emirates Elite Panel of ICC Match Referees imposed the fine after Eoin Morgan’s side was ruled to be one over short of its target when time allowances were taken into consideration,” the statement said.
“In accordance with Article 2.5.1 of the ICC Code of Conduct for Players and Player Support Personnel, which relates to minor over-rate offences, players are fined 10 per cent of their match fees for every over their side fails to bowl in the allotted time, with the captain fined double that amount.”
England will hope to restore some pride by winning the third and final ODI at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata on Sunday.