Needs ICC membership for cricket survival

The chief executive of the Ukrainian cricket board said he “ticked all the boxes” to become an associate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the game would not survive if denied entry.

Ukraine is set to become a second-tier member at the governing body’s board meeting this month, entitling the war-torn country to Twenty20 International status and funds from the ICC, which has allocated $30.8 million to its 96 associate members this year.

The Ukrainian Cricket Federation (UCF) has been organizing cricket for two decades and has 15,000 students, mostly Indians, at the top level.

Its chief executive, Kobus Olivier, told Reuters it met all ICC requirements before the invasion of Russia.

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“We ticked all the boxes on February 24 when the war started,” he said.

“I have so much confidence in this process…and I am absolutely convinced that Ukraine will be an associate member of the ICC.”

Olivier, a South African, said the ICC should take note of how the EU has “fast-tracked” Ukraine’s candidate status to join the bloc, saying it sets a “very good precedent”.

UCF President Hardeep Singh has arranged for national team players to train in India while Olivier moves to Zagreb after fleeing Kyiv.

He effectively runs UCF’s junior and women’s cricket programs from Zagreb and engages refugees, mostly mothers and children, in park cricket sessions three days a week.

“These refugee mothers are actually going to be part of the Ukrainian national team in a few years,” said Olivier, whose own escape from Kyiv, along with his four pet dogs, is the subject of a documentary.

Olivier also plans to organize a “Ukrainian Freedom Cup” in Zagreb next month with teams from Serbia, Slovenia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

If the ICC rejects its application for membership, the consequences for gambling in Ukraine would be disastrous, Olivier said.

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“It will be the end of cricket in Ukraine,” he said.

The Lord’s Taverners, a British charity, and the MCC Foundation, the charitable arm of cricket’s legislators, gave their support to UCF, but sponsorship funds dried up.

Membership of the ICC would make UCF eligible for government funding and could attract new sponsors.

“It will be a snowball effect,” said Olivier.

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Christi C. Elwood