Sport puts Wales on the map – which is why it’s time for a Welsh cricket team
Neil McEvoy AM
We often talk about the things a Scottish First Minister can do compared to their Welsh counterpart. And we can now add to the list congratulating their cricket team on beating England.
This is what Nicola Sturgeon was able to do after Scotland beat England in front of a sell-out crowd at the Grange in Edinburgh.
Scotland is now pushing for full test status, following Ireland, who has already become a full test playing nation of the International Cricket Council and played their first home test against Pakistan this year.
The reason a Welsh First Minister cannot congratulate Wales on beating England in cricket is that we don’t have a national team. Instead, we play as England.
And so, technically, we also lost to Scotland as it was an England and Wales team competing. You’d never know by looking at it.
The team was called England. There were no Welsh players. The team played under the English flag of St George and arrived on the field to the sound of England’s unofficial national anthem, Jerusalem.
They wore the same English three lions on their chest that the England football team will wear at the World Cup.
They do such a good job of not representing Wales that even the rugby correspondent at Wales Online tweeted ‘Scotland beat England at cricket! Hilarious.’ People had to remind him that it was also the Welsh team.
Now, if anyone tried to tell you that the English football team at the World Cup also represented Wales you wouldn’t believe them.
You’d point to the English flag and the English players and the English symbols and anthem as pretty clear signs that the team is there to represent England.
But you’d also be able to point to the existence of a Welsh football team. And that really is the point.
The truth is that cricket is not just an English game and so there is no reason to accept that England should represent Wales.
The Indian subcontinent, in particular, has embraced cricket with real passion. And by virtue of being so popular in some of the world’s most populated countries, cricket is one of the biggest sports on the globe. And it’s growing.
In Europe; Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands have been making huge strides. In Africa; Zimbabwe is returning to the international scene.
Elsewhere, the United Arab Emirates, Nepal, Hong Kong, Oman and, especially, Afghanistan, are bursting onto the international stage.
In fact, the top-ranked international bowler in T20 cricket is Rashid Khan from Afghanistan.
So, what’s stopping Wales? The answer is Glamorgan and Cricket Wales.
With a name like Cricket Wales, you’d think support for a cricket team for Wales would be a given. But that’s not so.
They have two main arguments against it. The first is the rather patronising claim that a Welsh team would be playing ‘against the likes of Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands’.
That’s the same Ireland that is now a full test playing nation, and the same Scotland that just beat England.
And Glamorgan want Wales to keep being part of the ECB (that’s the England and Wales Cricket Board, with the ‘W’ completely forgotten of course), because it’s good for the game in Wales.
But what would have done more for cricket in Scotland? Invisibility as part of England, or making global headlines for beating them and pushing for full test status?
Glamorgan also argue that they need to keep hosting England test matches to stay afloat. As a result, Cardiff Council loaned Glamorgan millions of pounds specifically for England test matches to be held in Cardiff.
The debt was then scandalously written off by the Labour-run council. And in an amazing turn of events Glamorgan took another loan from the ECB, with the specific condition that they would not host England test matches!
The end result of all of this is that Wales has no team, no senior Welsh players play international cricket, and no international test matches will be held in Wales.
Meanwhile, Ireland will continue to welcome test teams and Scotland will continue to play regular T20s and One Day Internationals.
The current mindset is one that we should have put to bed decades ago – that Wales can’t stand on its own two feet, and can only thrive as part of England.
There is now some cross-party support in the National Assembly for our own team. The Labour First Minister, Carwyn Jones, stated his support for a One Day team and described it as “odd” to see Scotland and Ireland playing, but not Wales.
Mohammad Asghar from the Conservatives is also a strong supporter. And for the first time, Plaid Cymru made establishing a Welsh cricket team a commitment in its manifesto in 2016, although it did not become part of Plaid’s budget negotiations with Labour.
The time for a Welsh team is now. Look at what rugby and football have done for Wales’ global recognition.
Welsh rugby is widely recognised as part of Wales’ global brand.
And former Wales footballer, Laura McAllister, has described the Welsh football team as our greatest asset when it comes to selling Wales on the global stage.
It was a proud moment watching Gareth Bale walk off the pitch in Kiev with a Welsh flag draped around his shoulders after winning the Champions League for Real Madrid.
And as he scored a spectacular goal to win the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona, you could hear the Spanish commentators yell out “Viva País de Gales” or “Long live Wales”.
Sport puts Wales on the map. But if Gareth Bale played cricket, he’d be playing for England under the flag of St George.
When it comes to cricket, the message we’re sending to a large part of the world is that Wales doesn’t exist. That we’re just a county of England.
A team called England, with all English players, can come to Cardiff and claim to be playing a home game.
You can walk past Sophia Gardens in the Welsh capital and see huge signs declaring ‘We Are England’. This can’t continue.
Cricket is a chance to sell Wales on a global stage in parts of the world that may not be familiar with us. But we must sell ourselves as Wales.
We can ensure that Welsh cricketers play international cricket all year round. It’s a chance that we can’t miss. The time for a Welsh cricket team is here. Let’s get it done.