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September 20, 2012

World Twenty20 2012

Minnows no more

Jarrod Kimber
Kevin O'Brien lets out a scream, Australia v Ireland, World Twenty20 2012, Group B, Colombo, September 19, 2012
Kevin O'Brien lets out a roar in the match against Australia  © ICC/Getty
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When an Australian fielder leans in to talk, there is a good chance a batsman is getting some flak. It could be professional advice, career counseling or questions about his family, but the batsman is getting chirped, sledged or mentally disintegrated.

Ireland were yesterday. From the first ball Australian fielders were leaning in, sometimes in unison with an aggressive clap, and saying things that seemed to upset some of the Ireland players.

It wasn't that many years ago that Australian players took to the field against a minnow with grins and little preparation. Not anymore.

While the ICC limited-overs rankings mean little to anyone ever in history of humanity, Australia wouldn't want to be below Ireland on the rankings. And so they played Ireland the way they play anyone, with aggression.

It's also clear they had a fair bit of analysis on the strengths of the Ireland side, and shut them down.

It was in the 2009 World T20 that New Zealand's Iain O'Brien was smashed in the first over of the match against Scotland for 16 runs. O'Brien had been given a plan on how to bowl to Watts, and he'd executed it, except he was actually bowling to Watson.

That is less likely now. Many of the airlines that flew into the ground had the ICC road to the World T20 playing on their planes. You could watch your opposition as you ate your complimentary nuts. That's not even including how much video is actually around on these players.

There is probably more video of Trent Johnston than there is on George Bailey. The minnow teams of the past were often one-man affairs. Every successful team had a John Davison type player.

Now with Ireland and Afghanistan, it's a team thing. It seems like from 1-9 you could bat the Afghanistan players in any order and not lose much. Ireland is the new New Zealand. Everyone seems purpose built to fit into the team and make it just a little bit better. And in the case of Ireland and Afghanistan, these are teams dominated by local players, not imports.

But what was also there was a belief that both teams belong.

Gary Wilson attacked David Warner verbally. Wilson wanted Warner to know Ireland weren't going to give up after an average first innings total. Later on I think it was Naib bowling when Kohli came down the wicket and pushed the ball back before having it thrown by Naib in a fit of anger.

It wasn't quite a Stuart Broad throw (no fingers were broken), but it showed intent, and got the full stare of menace from Kohli in return. It wasn't that long ago Kohli and Warner were staring each other down in Perth, now minnow players are doing it.

It's doubtful that minnow teams, even ones not at the level of Ireland and Afghanistan, will probably ever be taken as lightly as the great UAE side of the 1996 World Cup. The term minnow may not even be used in a few years.

Afghanistan and Ireland are a long way from being regular international winners, but if you can upset an Australian or an Indian, without even playing a shot, something has definitely changed in world cricket.

Perhaps that's what Gary Wilson was telling young Mr Warner.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

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Keywords: Minnows, World Twenty20

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