ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

Sri Lanka v Canada, World Cup 2011, Hambantota

Where do the minnows go from here?

Watching Associates get hammered in World Cups is dispiriting, but there must be a way of ensuring they play against big teams more than once every four years

Osman Samiuddin in Hambantota

February 20, 2011

Comments: 42 | Text size: A | A

Such days make for a dispiriting - and complicated - spectacle. The two matches in Chennai and Hambantota on Sunday are precisely what the format and the World Cup don't need, yet it is the very existence of such matches that allows cricket to think of itself as a global game.

Much has been said on the issue of the Associates in the run-up to this tournament. Probably the most thoughtful and reasoned assessment of their plight came from Ricky Ponting, who in his sporting old age, appears to have found a wisened balance.

The World Cup needs to be more competitive, he said, and that can't be argued with. The first two days have seen individual and collective quality, but no competitiveness. But Associates also need to be given a platform to develop. They only get to play big teams once every four years. There, they get duly battered, go away, come back four years later and go through it again. Here is the real plight.

Occasionally there is hope: Kenya's run in 2003, Ireland's performances in 2007. But where do they go from there? Into the glass ceiling Ireland spoke of a few years ago? Mostly, there is what happened to Kenya and Canada on Sunday. What, Ponting asked, do they learn from such batterings?

Canada showed some spirit and bite in Hambantota. For 25 overs in the field they can say they had things under control. But it was always a precarious kind of hold, prisoner to the gulf in quality of superior opponents and their own lack of exposure to it. Once Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara decided to take the game away, they simply went on and did so. As Canada's Sri Lankan coach Pubudu Dassanayake later acknowledged, they knew what to do; the plans were in place; presumably some kind of SWOT analysis coaches love doing was carried out as well. They just didn't have the tools to do it.

In four World Cups since 1979, Canada has won one game, against Bangladesh. Yet there is something to build on with this side. There are young players coming through. They have coaches with international experience. The ICC facilitates their preparation for such tournaments.

But without playing any top-flight cricket outside the World Cup, how do they grow as players, as a team, how do they build? Not by playing top sides every four years.

Dassanayake seems a cheery man, so he insisted that his players would have learnt something from the 210-run defeat to Sri Lanka. "Mainly this is a great experience for my youngsters," he said. "Playing against great bowlers like [Muttiah] Muralitharan and [Ajantha] Mendis, it gives them a lot of confidence. If you talk about talent they are all talented but just not exposed at this level. We can coach certain things but it's all about them going and experiencing this and getting the belief they can compete against top players."

They might very well take something from this, but where do they take it? These sides want to become full Test members. Ultimately, that must be the aim of everyone involved in cricket. By not playing regular top-level cricket, or not, as may be the case, playing in future World Cups, that will not happen.

Ponting's suggestion - taken up by Mahela Jayawardene as well - that there should be another way of getting them to play constant top-flight cricket offers a solution if there is seriousness about finding one.

"You need to give them opportunities to play more regular cricket with top nations," Jayawardene said. "Maybe on and off they need to organise certain things for them because their cricket can be improved. Cricket is a global game and we need to try and make sure everyone plays and comes to that standard one day."

Until - and if - that day comes, associates, as Dassanayake put it, are in the dark about where they go next. He is not alone.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 42 
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Posted by Mark on (February 23, 2011, 16:28 GMT)

Also SuperSharky. I agree with everything you say, you are spot on teams like Canada or US for that matter should be given more exposure to top flight competition. Rather than once every 4 years. Canada and US can compete in the WI domestic competition regularly or Holland, Ireland, Scotland or France, Spain, Italy in England's domestic comp. Or Afghanistan in India's or Sri Lanka's domestic comp, its a tall order to ask the associate nations to turn up once every 4 years and expect to compete with the test playing nations.

Posted by Mark on (February 23, 2011, 16:14 GMT)

I totally agree with Husnain Lotia who wrote

"In the 2003 World Cup, the Canadian team was not supported by the country, and came to play at their own expense. Some of them even lost their jobs because their employers would not grant them leave!! Such was their resolve and passion to play the game, and that too at the highest level.".."I do believe they are still amateurs, but dont know if they receive any financial support from the Government of Canada.. kudos to them anyway!! I salute their love and dedication to the game" Agree! Lets not forget Sri Lanka in 1979 world cup was in the same boat as Canada. Obviously SL being a passionate cricket playing nation helped in becoming a world beater.Canada should doing better given that it too has a long cricket history of cricket communities there playing the game. Also the great Don Bradman in 1932 when he toured US and Canada said of Brockton Point, Vancouver,which Bradman was moved to say was "surely the prettiest ground in the world".

Posted by Sharky on (February 23, 2011, 13:24 GMT)

Posted by ssjumbo on (February 21 2011, 08:38 AM GMT)

We only have to think about the FIRST EVER match of the world cup in 1975. England 334 and India 132 -3.. Gavaskar's 36 not out in 60 overs. India only beat East Africa in 1975, lost all 3 in 79 including to Sri Lanka , who were considered minnows. Then in 1983, they won the cup. And they are world no 2 and no 1 in money terms. Only solution is to let Canada, Zim, Kenya play regularly against top teams so that they can improve. Appearing straight to world cup from their weekend cricket won't help anyone.

Posted by Sharky on (February 23, 2011, 13:19 GMT)

I agree, please don't stop the development of the Associates Nations. It must be a World Cup for the world and not just for Test Playing nations and 1 lucky country. They need the World Cup and Champions Trophy for their development!!! What if they told India in the Seventies; "No, sorry, your the minnows, you can't play!" Or if they Told Sri Lanka in the Eighties; "No sorry, your the minnows, you can't play with us!" Or if they told South Africa in 1992; "No sorry, your the isolated minnows, you can't play!" Or if they told Bangladesh not to play in 1996 World Cup. Their upset against Pakistan was huge. And they had upsets in the 1999 World Cup, those are memories to remember. And remember Kenya upsetting a few in 2003, by reaching the semi-finals. In 2007 Ireland beat Pakistan. These are the type of results that gives cricket life. Not only does it wake up the Test playing nation, but gives hopes to more than a million under-dogs. And without hope, I don't see cricket develop.

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 21, 2011, 21:49 GMT)

IMO ... The World Cricket League system (which is an excellent way for associates to get themselves ready for international cricket) could simply be extended to the top teams. With promotion and relegation as it is currently. Therefore the WCL 1st Division becomes the top 6 (india/aus et al), next 6 is Division 2 and so on. This is held every couple of years currently and would remove somewhat the glass ceiling - also it could simply replace the champions trophy and whatever other league gimmick they are proposing for the full members in ODIs. Really very simple - then the WC can simply be the top 8 or 10 or 12 or whatever they decide based on the WCL.

Posted by Muthuvel on (February 21, 2011, 19:44 GMT)

How come everybody is forgetting the SL story, SL used to compete in Indian domestic circuit and used to get defeated by TN and Mumbai, then they learnt and became strong enough to beat any top side and then by sheer hard work and dedication became world champs and look at them now such a mighty team. Domestic tournies in nearby test nations is the only solution. bangla come to india, afg go to pak. zim go to SA, Canada go to WI, Holl go to Eng.

Posted by miraj on (February 21, 2011, 17:09 GMT)

the best way to go for ICC would be schedule tournaments with Test Playing Nations A teams and all these so called minnows, including canada..the competition would still be at the highest level and it will give good exposure to our crickets..also ICC really needs to control these boards and how they run the game in their respective countries. in canada there seems to be so much turmoil within the cricket board and its different leagues. there is lot of improvements to be made and hopefully ICC has some plans in place to help these countries..

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 21, 2011, 11:31 GMT)

It's a real tough situation. But I think the ICC World Cup must go on like this. They may get thrashed but there is an improvement every time. If we don't allow the minnows to play, then there will be a even bigger gap between top-flight and minnow countries and reversing the decision will do it more harm. The best solution is to have teams tour these places. Also Canada could be included in WI's domestic season or of any other country (just like how Netherlands used to play in one of England's limited-overs tournament).

Posted by Tony on (February 21, 2011, 11:02 GMT)

The test playing nations could do more to help - England at least have a regular game every home season against Ireland or Scotland, and some touring sides also play an ODI against them. But otherwise apart from the odd game here or there the test sides don't do much to help the associates develop. All of the test playing countries should be made to play at least one game a year against one of the top-six associates - that way the associate sides would get a couple of major games a year.

Posted by Imran on (February 21, 2011, 10:39 GMT)

What the cricketing world now needs is a full time world league. Something like the UEFA Champions league in football. You can buy / transfer / trade players from all over the world for or from your own country leagues. That way players from the associate nations would be competing at a higher level. I am not talking about leagues like the IPL where there is a limit on foreign players, if there is indeed a limit on foreign players it should be fixed at 5 or 6 foreign players at the most. Every year in the soccer world cup you see new teams showing up and creating upsets in the grandest scale.Cameroon / Senegal / Ghana / South Korea, all of whom were considered underdogs at the time of qualifying for the world cup, now they have star players representing many of the premier clubs in the world. Cricket needs a League, very very badly. It needs to pushed hard by the ICC if the game is to get better worldwide, or else we will be seeing the same teams over and over. It gets monotonous.

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Osman SamiuddinClose
Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.

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