Not merely making up the numbers: Part 2
World Cup 2011 -
World Cup 2011
Monday, 07 March 2011 00:12
Contributed by Yogesh Gandhi
Contd... (Please click here for Part 1)
In between these gigantic tales and heroic feats lies a story of unkept promises and unending struggles. Like Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe showed a lot of promise towards late ‘90s with Flower brothers leading the charge and several talented players like Neil Johnson coming to the fore. It all came to a null when a certain Mugabe caused an upset of his own to derail the progress of Zimbabwean Cricket. Zimbabwe’s case was that of lost and found. Their Test playing status lasted like a falling star. It vanished before you could wish. In every ICC Championship, one saw at least one result that became a talking point, as an afterthought to what was essentially a competition of equals.
The reality check
It just took the first week of lop-sided contests featuring minnows to make ICC draw a conclusion that these teams should be done away with the next edition of World Cup. The Test playing nations backed this decision with Ponting clearly stating his priorities.
"I have always been unsure if the World Cup or the Champions Trophy is the right place to be bringing in these teams," Ponting said, hours after New Zealand thrashed Kenya in a match that lasted less than 35 overs.
"I am not sure how much they learn, getting hammered the way they do. At the end of the day, the World Cup will probably be a better tournament if there are fewer teams."
Don’t hold it against him though (At times I feel, our hatred towards Ponting equals the adulation that we shower on our team when it does well).
In the 14 games that featured non Test playing nations versus the Test playing, minnows while chasing have lost by a staggering average of 143 runs against stronger oppositions (1287 runs in 9 matches). They haven’t fared too well while defending either and have lost by an average of 9 wickets in the matches they have batted first. Netherlands gave England a solid run to their money in their first game riding on the back of Doeschate’s scintillating century. Kenya cut a sorry figure against Sri Lanka to set the lowest score of the tournament, while Bangladeshis were slaughtered by Indians who scored 370 in the tournament opener. Bangladesh were punished severely by West Indies and set another low- lowest total for a host nation, getting bowled out for a paltry 58 in 18.5 overs! On the same day, Zimbabwe showed that they were losing the track too when they lost out New Zealand by staggering ten wickets. Can’t bat, can’t bowl anyone?
Not much can be said about the other minor teams too. Apart serving as a vehicle for several mediocre players who had migrated from subcontinent to countries like Canada to serve their long cherished dream of playing Cricket at highest level, minnows seamed to do nothing to take the game to the next level.
It all changed when Kevin O’Brien chose to fight against the fate to come from the brink and became the man to score the fastest century of the World Cup history off a meagre 50 balls, paving the way for Ireland to beat England, even after facing a daunting target of 327 runs.
England v Ireland at Bangalore - Mar 2, 2011
Ireland won by 3 wickets (with 5 balls remaining)
England 327/8 (50 ov); Ireland 329/7 (49.1 ov)
Power of miracles. And dreams.
It took 12 games for that to happen, but happen it did. Upsets like these throw the tournament open. With Pakistan struggling to a paltry total of 181 against Canada, it seemed like Canada will spring another surprise. But it was not to be. Their batsmen were at their wits end and succumbed to the fast and furious leg spin of Shahid bhai, clearing exposing the lack of aptitude, if not the attitude. The sparkle shown by Netherlands, Ireland and Canada will give other teams a sense of confidence and make them believe in the power of miracles. If a bunch of Doctors, lawyers, farmers, why even physios can do that playing after earning their livelihood, then what stops others from believing? For bigger teams it means an added element of uncertainty putting the fear of unknown in the minds of today’s laptop trained teams.
It is evident that the minnows have a long way to go in terms of elevating their skills in all departments of the game. What will help is to have a mini competition between the minnows before the major tournament and send just a couple of teams in the big league. This will fire the competitive spirit as there would be no free berths and instil a sense of confidence in the teams who are drafted in the mains. These two teams then should get a fair share in the FTP of ICC. This way, slowly but surely, life can be infused into the faltering league of minnows and also pave the way of game’s expansion gradually.
So what happens to minnows in 2015?
It’s simple. It depends on how ICC perceives the role of minnows in world order. It may choose to look at the freak results as a chance and kill the sparkle of tournament or chose to play safe and avoid numerous redundant games that bore us to sleep. But spare a thought.
Miracles, by their very definition, are rare and treasured for their elusiveness, and have consequences that can impact the end result immensely. It is this possibility that adds a new dimension to the Cup. In the process giving the rising teams a reason to hope and dream. Ultimately, it’s the dreams and beliefs that prompt a revolution that fastens the growth than a controlled state ruled by a strict definition of rules and regulations. To allow the minnows or not to allow them will then only be a precursor of how this game evolves and expands in its near future.
I hope for the miracle. Do you?