New World Cricket Watch columnist Anthony Gray explains why the minnows need more exposure, not less.
When Kevin O’Brien turned Michael Yardy towards the leg side, he charged back for the second run, roaring at the top of his lungs to celebrate the fastest World cup century in history . Ireland would later go on to win the match, defeating England in Bangalore and creating the most memorable moment of World Cup 2011. The victory over England added to their growing list of Full Member scalps. In 2007 they stunned Pakistan before taking out Bangladesh later in the tournament.
The associate nations have made a habit of World Cup upsets, which feature prominently at the annual event. In 2003 Canada would defeat Bangladesh, while Kenya would charge towards the semi finals with victories over Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, to go with their 1996 defeat of the West Indies. It was these moments, which stopped the cricketing world and made us believe that the 11th test cricket playing nation may not be too far away.
Unfortunately there will be no world cup boilover in 2015. There will be no game which will turn world cricket on its head. The ICC made a decision on Monday to make the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand a ten team tournament with no qualification process, eliminating the associate nations from the tournament. The decision will be tough for the associate nations to swallow, particular for Ireland who have shown as much potential as fellow full member nations Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.
The decision means the likes of Niall O’Brien, Ashish Bagai and Ryan ten Doeschate may never play another world cup game, as all will be past 37 years of age when the 2019 version of the tournament takes place in England and Wales.
For Ireland and Netherlands, both sides have shown improvement in these four years. Canada were disappointing in this world cup, however their performances gradually improved as the tournament progressed with a win against Kenya and competitive showings against Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand. However, in what way can these players improve, by now having to go back and face league bowlers in Toronto and Vancouver, before facing up to the likes of Zaheer Khan, Daniel Vettori or Dale Steyn at their next showing in the world’s biggest event. Without more regular cricket at a high level, it is hard for these nations becoming stronger. The simple underlying message is without exposure at the highest level, no nation will improve. The minnow nations should be playing more cricket against full member nations, not less.
The ICC has offered expanded competition in the World Twenty20 as a start, but the players need exposure at all forms for developing. They need exposure against the best competition in the world at batting and bowling for substantial amounts of time.
The decision creates dilemmas in many forms for many small nations now. For developing Irish cricketers, does a World Twenty20 have the lure to keep a younger player moving to England like Ed Joyce, with the chance to play regular International Cricket in over three different forms. That is just one issue that this decision brings, not to mention the funding and sponsorship issues raised by Cricket Ireland’s CEO Warren Deutrom.
The ICC World Cup brings excitement from players and fans all over the world. One major reason for the excitement, is to see something different, something they would not see in a regular one day series or ICC Champions Trophy. It is exciting to see what the rest of the world has to offer in cricket, and the progress these nations have made. Any cricket fan would be excited about the prospect of seeing a test match in Dublin or Amsterdam in the next decade. The ICC’s latest decision is a major setback for these countries in achieving that. The ICC should remember Sri Lanka only became a Test playing nation in 1981, and through regular competition at high levels were able to win the world cup in 1996. They are now one of the greatest forces in the game.
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