Tuesday, April 5

Another sad day for cricket & English, Zimbabwean and Bangla cricket ahead

How to kill the goose that lays golden eggs?

Is a lesson that can be learnt very well at many places, but in the precints of ICC, one has also the chance to learn how to mistake a hen for a goose. Ireland’s banishment from the next World Cup is not only shameful and disgusting, but it also defies all logic from even a monetary point of view: India does not invite Bangladesh for Test matches nor even for bilateral one-day series, simply because of the wide gulf between India and Bangladesh for any longer-term format of cricket; and yet, as Ireland showed on the subcontinent soil itself, if tomorrow there were to be an India-Ireland bilateral series, it could go very close and the spectators would be fully recompensed. Granted that Bangladesh has a government that provides public holidays on every match day and the people think themselves world-beaters on the basis of a fluke win and the next day, in the illusions that no one has a right to beat world-beaters, violently hurl missiles at the teams they lose to (or their own team; for that was the bizarre cover-up by a Bangladesh administrator) - thus effectively a very populous market - yet it is the strength of the game finally that generates interest and excitement. It was Ireland that provided the excitement in 2007 World Cup and yet again in this World Cup - not Bangladesh, who couldn’t even manage a team total of 100 runs on two different occasions, and certainly not Zimbabwe, who are right now only becoming more and more addled and just besotted with making the right noises to gain Test status.

Maybe, it is the art of making right noises that Ireland lack. Or, that England is not supporting their case. Bangladesh has the powerful India at its backing and Zimbabwe the only worthwhile cricket-playing African nation, South Africa: given this, it is certain that ICC would pull out all stops to prevent these two countries from being excluded out. And today, if there were a league to be held between Ireland, West Indies, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, Canada, Zimbabwe, Scotland and Afghanistan, and that league were to be held anywhere apart from the pitches of Bangladesh, then it would be highly doubtful if both Bangladesh and Zimbabwe would qualify: out of those eight teams, the four best on present form are Ireland, West Indies, the Netherlands, and Afghanistan. It is hard to fathom by what logic Ireland have been ousted; it is further hard to understand that what kind of motivations will be in front of the other associates, especially the bravehearts Afghanistan, if the top associate, Ireland, is in itself meted out this kind of treatment. And how come Zimbabwe gets to not only retain its place in the next World Cup but also is soon likely to get Test status completely browbeats everyone who follows cricket in the least.

Reviewing the English World Cup campaign, a tired unit did much better than expectations, and it augurs quite well for the English cricket ahead. Stuart Broad’s injury was a terrible blow post my previous write-up, and it also meant that England lost to Bangladesh, which subsequently meant that England had to face Sri Lanka on Lankan soil in the knockout game. The squad England ended up with was only half of the original selections, plus Anderson and Bresnan being burnouts, and yet the never-say-die spirit shown by England in the 50-over game was a welcome relief. England nearly lost to the Netherlands (if only Strauss had failed in that game) and managed to lose to Ireland and Bangladesh from winning positions, but apart from the knockout game, it didn’t lose against any top side. It didn’t even lose to India on Indian soil, a magnificent achievement. That could very well be the summary of things to come in the next eight-nine years: the battle of supremacy between India and England. While England have a slight edge in Tests, in the shorter formats India has a clear lead. What courageous decisions does Andy Flower take will now steer the course of English cricket: Collingwood must be trusted in again, players like Bell have no place in shorter formats, and players like Luke Wright should be given enough self-belief that they see someone like Shane Watson as their inspiration. Prior has to make way for others: I believe Foster in the Tests (whom somehow Andy is very reluctant to pick) and someone else in the shorter formats (trial and error being the possible method there). It is also important that England find a really good spinner soon: Swann wouldn’t manage to go on for ever, and a spinner could suddenly turn overnight from lethal to innocuous. Blood an exciting talent before it gets too late; and get a few Irish imports, especially now that Irish players have hardly a chance of a big stage before them. Both Dockrell and Sielaar, the Irish and Dutch main spinners, were highly impressive, and it would be a shame if their game is not looked at.

Zimbabwe have to unearth fast bowlers from somewhere, at least decent ones. They have pathetic ones right now. Get Chigumbura out of captaincy, and give it to Taylor; and avoid politics like the non-selection of Hamilton Masakadza. Taibu, even after years of cricket behind him, is completely immature about his batting; he still plays the same predetermined shots. Even I can predict what shot he is going to play next, forget the bowler. He must go. Craig Ervine, Taylor, Regis Chakabva and Sean Williams should form the linchpin of the Zimbabwe batting in the next couple of years or more to come: they are good enough; all they need is confidence and a couple of good innings each in the middle against good opposition.

As regarding Bangladesh, their problem is internal strife (cricketwise, Bangladesh needs maturity and temperament; and again good fast bowlers): captain Shakib al-Hasan is a coward, even if he’s a fine player both in skills and temperament, and the other captain in absentia, Mashrafe al-Mortaza, could only very skilfully demonstrate the malaise affecting Bangladesh cricket: he almost engineered his selection back into the Bangladesh squad by using media as a potent tool to manipulate public opinion. As Dhoni said, you don’t play for the public, you play for the team; when the public (helped by an irresponsible media) starts to have a say in everything (democratically elected cricket teams?), by direct or indirect influence, the cause is doomed. If Dhoni, one of the wisest minds I’ve seen in a long time (not just cricket), had listened to the public, India would not be the world champions right now.

(It is another story if a country like Bangladesh should be hosting flood-lit cricket matches and glittering World Cup ceremonies [a much richer nation like England rarely chooses to hold day-nighters and it had a very frugal ceremony for the World Cup in 1999; not that the ceremony was any less boring], when there are far more pressing needs to look to, and when they are not even likely to get much sporting recognition, for they are still much behind other cricketing nations: add to that the non-sporting behaviour of Bangla fans, and it would be hard to think of positives.)



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