March 20, 2007

World Cup

Thou shalt not knock the minnows

Martin Williamson
Dwayne Leverock huffs and puffs for a single and gets there comfortably, Bermuda v India, Group B, Trinidad, March 19, 2007
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TV viewers might have noticed that commentators have been very chartable to the so-called minnows during this World Cup so far. For example, when Zimbabwe were in the Caribbean in May, the experts made no attempt to hide their feelings that they were not fit to play international cricket. But even when they tied with Ireland on Saturday, there was hardly a critical word. And even when Bermuda and Netherlands, for example, have been slaughtered, the men in the box have been remarkably jolly about them.

Robert Craddock, writing in The Australian, thinks he knows why.

It is understood commentators have been told by Global Cricket Corp producers that it frowns on them denigrating the minnows. However, it is deemed acceptable for commentators to call an event a mismatch but not to say some of the nations do not deserve to be in the tournament.

Some commentators who agree with the directive and feel the minnows are a necessary part of global expansion are happy to abide by it. Others, who feel the tournament has been devalued by their presence, would rather speak their mind.

And Craddock concluded by saying that some of the players themselves are aware of the real picture.

The widespread feeling that the minnows are enjoying every moment of their matches against the big boys is wide of the mark. Several Dutch players privately conceded they feel embarrassed by their team's efforts.

Keep your eyes and ears open and see if what you are watching tallies with what you are being told.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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Posted by Aaron Murphy on (April 3, 2007, 5:59 GMT)

Fair point, and that's what the Champions Trophy is for - the champions of the world to battle it out. It was a good move to make it an 8-team tournament, and have no sides like the USA. The World Cup is for the minnows.

Posted by Gordon on (March 26, 2007, 13:17 GMT)

As a Scotsman I would have no problem with us playing in the World Cup, but then the ICC Champions Trophy and the 20/20 World Cup being just for the full status sides.

I believe the ECB should be doing more to assist cricket development in neighbouring countries, there should be Scottish and Irish sides in division 2 of the English County championship. That would improve technique and ability, that would in turn make players better one-day players.

As we all see really the problem with associate nations is in the batting

Posted by Aaron Murphy on (March 25, 2007, 23:09 GMT)

The World Cup is entitled for these reasons, to show off the entire world of cricket, not perhaps 8 or 9 nations that are so rich or populated that they shall always be up amongst the best (Australia, England, India, etc) - thats whats the Champions Trophy is for. Long live the day when we see a world cup of 16 teams with only 1 or 2 games that result in 200+ run victories, not 5.

As the Irish proved not once against Pakistan, but twice against Zimbabwe, these unknowns are participating in the World Cup to throw their names onto the global map - I'm sure any Irish fan won't forget a brilliant century from one Jeremy Bray, or that sensational swing from Trent Johnston sailing Ireland into the super 8s (who would have believed it?).

I personally believe the best way for these minnows to lift their game to the next level is to experience the intensity of a world class match against the best of the best, and take newfound skills and ideas out of these shellackings by the Australians, the South Africans, and so on.

Couldn't help but notice one ambitious Bangladeshi fan in the crowd against India with a placard displaying

BANGLADESH - WORLD CUP CHAMPIONS 2014

Name one commentator who would have acknowledged that sign at the 2003 World Cup, and seen some possibility in it. None. Nowadays, whether their opinions of minnows in the World Cup is positive or not, they would know that that message can happen, the way Bangladesh cricket is rising.

What these minnow nations need to do to help themselves is focus on the long-term future. Bond together a team of boys in their young 20s as Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have done, perhaps integrate it with a couple of veterans, and plan to take it to the next level in a decade rather than straight away. Playing with retired or rejected cricketers in their late 30s/early 40s (eg. Anderson Cummins and the entire USA team) wont work in the first place, nor will it work in 5 years when they'll be retired or playing with walking sticks and false teeth.

These nations need to help themselves before they can take it to the next level, with a bit of support from the ICC through arranging fixtures and tours in test countries, perhaps playing domestic and A sides, and training sessions with the international cricketers to improve in particular, the abysmal fielding skills shown by them in this World Cup.

Just my two cents.

Posted by Anand Nair on (March 25, 2007, 12:47 GMT)

Well if you want a 'world cup' with only 8 nations, then don't call it a 'World' Cup.... you can call it a 8-nations championship or Commonwealth Cricket Cup.

Posted by Peter Borren on (March 25, 2007, 12:07 GMT)

As a member of the Netherlands team, I can confirm with certainty that I am not in any way 'embarrassed' by our efforts during the world cup. Our batting could have been better against the two stronger sides, but is conceeding 350 against Aussie on a wicket that flat and a ground that small embarrassing for a team with very little experience, I think not. I hope that the Aus-S.A match may have put things in perspective a little for those observers who can think of nothing better to write than negative columns. How boring and monotonous. Good luck to Ireland in the super eights (a team who incidently came 5th in the recent WCL against the rest of us useless minnows), and to Bangladesh also, good luck. I guess they are the perfect example of what can be achieved with a little open mindedness.

Posted by Calvin Smith on (March 25, 2007, 10:52 GMT)

The only way to expand the level of skill in any game or sport is through organised practice of the fundamentals and competition. The higher the level of competition the greater the probability that the level of skill will improve. The problem faced by organisers who wish to extend the playing of cricket to more countries is how to improve the level of competition in the current world organization of cricket. Improving the level of skill can be achieved on the one hand through academies and enabling the better players from countries who do not have test status to play in the senior leagues of test playing countries. Improving team play will obviously require more contests against the test playing countries at the ODI level. Otherwise, we are playing at claiming we want to expand the playing of cricket.

Posted by harsha on (March 24, 2007, 5:37 GMT)

all hopes on you guys now.if u can beat the bangladeshi's i hope India will get through otherwise it will be worst campaign since 1979. I know most of r supporters of the GREAT INDIAN TEAM.. can u do it for India please.......

Posted by Eddie on (March 23, 2007, 12:16 GMT)

Let's not forget that until very recently Australia v New Zealand was almost unheard of as a game, the 1970's to be precise. In fact, very few teams did play against Australia. They weren't deemed up to scratch. I'm pretty sure Greg Chappell never toured India as a player. This sounds familiar, doesn't it. The Sri Lanka example is the best example of the need to include these teams.

Posted by Matt Doherty on (March 23, 2007, 10:39 GMT)

Excellent points made on this string, but I'll add my 2c worth.

Take a longer view; the first ICC was in fact the 'Imperial Cricket Council' and comprised Australia, England and (white) South Africa. Can anyone argue that we are not so much the richer for cricket having contributions from more corners of the globe? And that this quintessentially English village game is now 'owned' by cultures far removed from there? Cricket in African townships, Aussie backyards, Indian city streets, West Indian beaches, and more. This is what I find fantastic in cricket's going global, so more power to it.

Yes there will be mismatches. Is 16 teams too many (I don't think we can go below 14, and 16 is a more workable number of teams)?

Time will tell. But more power to the 'minnows' say I. And c'mon the Irish!

Posted by arnold ruzvidzo on (March 23, 2007, 9:23 GMT)

cricket is a game of time and exposure ... the Zimbabwean team is going to be together for the next 10 to 15 years so it's probably going to make it just a matter of time and the Irish has shown exactly what the game is made of

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martin Williamson
Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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