Green does not mean go for Associates

Oh, Bengaluru.

First, you give us a thriller that ends in a tie. Then you give us this.

Kevin O’Brien (big lad, ginger, knows how to hit a cricket ball) out Kieron’d Pollard, out Viru’d Sehwag and eclipsed both Sachin Tendulkar and Andrew Strauss in cracking the finest innings yet seen at this World Cup, and the fastest World Cup ton ever scored, off only 50 balls.

O’Brien fell for 113 and it was left in the capable hands of John Mooney (who also took four wickets) and Trent Johnston to finish it off with 5 balls to spare. Alex Cusack also deserves a mention – his sixth wicket partnership with O’Brien was worth 162 and set Ireland up for the win.

Cue much rejoicing, and probably a fair few sore heads this morning.

This is two matches in a row that England have scored over 300 and failed to win. It’s not the batting that is the problem – though the mini-collapse at the end of yesterday’s innings was slightly worrying – but the fielding and bowling have been beyond diabolical.

Dropped catches, lousy fielding, “gimme” balls served up on a plate for batsmen to paste all round Chinnaswamy Stadium – the daft thing is, they played exactly like this against the Netherlands before raising their game against India. No doubt they’ll pick themselves up, dust themselves down and give an account of themselves against South Africa on Sunday more in line with expectations that usually surround an Ashes-winning team.

Whether it be tiredness, complacency, or a mixture of both: England cannot keep fucking up against, what is, on paper at least, lesser opposition.

Should they make it to the quarters they will not have the luxury of being shit one match and then perfectly up for the challenge the next.

But focusing on England’s failings is to unfairly take away from Ireland’s street-fighting victory. Kevin O’Brien is one tough bastard. He spent one season playing Twenty20 for Nottinghamshire but it didn’t take; before that, though, he was Ireland’s hero in the 2007 World Cup, chipping in with bat and ball and helping his side to a famous win over Pakistan.

This team is up for a fight and they know how to scrap. They were 111-5 at one stage and Strauss admitted “things were looking pretty comfortable”. Not for long. Give Ireland a chance to get back in the game and rediscover the have-a-go hero inside them, and you will be in the shit. They will take you on and if you let them, they will rip your testicles off, and then smear them all round the ground. If you want to help them out with some shitty bowling, and Barnum and Bailey Big Top fielding, well, that’s fine – thanks very much.

But in the great scheme of things this doesn’t mean a heck of a lot when it comes to advancing the cause of Associate cricket in this tournament, certainly not where the ICC is concerned.

I’ll agree, the “minnows” have, based on results, not exactly provided much in the way of an argument to the contrary.

The Netherlands may have given England a scare recently, but they were rolled comprehensively in their match against South Africa today. Kenya seem to have gone backward since making the semi-finals in 2003. Canada and Zimbabwe have had brief moments where they’ve had their opponents on the back foot, but in the unforgiving cauldron of 50 overs against Test-playing nations they have struggled.

The ICC obviously regard the Associates as a diseased limb that needs to be excised from the main trunk of the tournament to maintain its health. They point to criticism of the 2007 event, which was regarded as too long and with too many meaningless matches.

But when you look at the change that has been made for the next World Cup in 2015, this is transparent bullshit. The teams will be reduced from 14 to 10, but this will not mean the tournament will be dramatically shortened – 49 matches will be played this year, 48 in 2015 – so the idea that the tournament will be “streamlined” is patently nonsense.

A sop was thrown to the Associates with the announcement that the Twenty20 World Cup would be expanded to 16 teams in 2012. For most cricketers, though, their ambition is to play Test cricket, still the pinnacle of the sport, and no nation will ever be promoted to Test status on the back of its Twenty20 results.

The international 50-over format is currently the only way Associate nations have of advancing towards Test status. From 2015 that will exist no longer. When the decision to reduce the teams was made back in October of last year, the ICC “announced it had asked its governing council to examine the issue of qualification for ICC global events, as well as opportunities for Associate members to play ODIs, and make recommendations to the board”. So far, nothing has come of this, and one could be excused for thinking this does not seem to rank very highly on the ICC’s ladder of priorities.

What does seem to matter, however, are full stadiums, as little chance as possible of India exiting the tournament early, and a Full-Members-Only Club that is closed to outsiders who constitute too much of a gamble when it comes to providing publicity or ticket sales.

There are those who would say that being bludgeoned into the ground by stronger opposition does the smaller teams no good, that they will learn nothing from being comprehensively outplayed. Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene disagrees: “The more games they play at this level, the more they will improve. For us, it is always good to have these countries playing in big tournaments. That was how we learned. Hopefully, they will do the same”.

The development and growth of Associate cricket is essential for the sport. In 2015, the ICC has virtually ensured it will be all messed up and with nowhere to go.

One Response to “Green does not mean go for Associates”

  1. Devarchit says:

    Hi Victor,

    I’m writing on behalf of the Managing Editor of CricketCountry, which is a joint venture portal of the Zee Group and an American media giant. Our cricket vertical has lots of cricketers writing for us, besides established writers. However, we are also giving space for bloggers and others who would like to share their views and/or blog on cricket.

    Would you be interested in posting your cartoons/articles on our website? If you do wish to share, kindly let me know. We are not paying fan bloggers for non-exclusive articles, but what we would undoubtedly give them is instant recognition on a big platform alongside big names – something that is not possible as a stand-alone blogger or merely commenting on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Moreover, we intend leverage the written stuff across social media platforms. And that means getting your writings across to much bigger audience and
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    If we find that any blogger is writing insightfully and is drawing a huge following, we could then commission him/her to write exclusive articles for which they would be paid.

    Do let me know your thoughts.


    Devarchit Varma

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