No devaluation from these West Indies
It cannot be an easy time to be a West Indies cricketer of any kind. Those on strike are not doing what they are meant to be doing. Those in South Africa are not being credited for doing what they are doing.
Floyd Reifer's men came into the tournament having been beaten by Bangladesh. Their presence here was said by many to devalue the tournament itself. And when their batting collapsed today, you could sense people were waiting to pounce.
It's a funny charge that, devaluation, given that of the many things the Champions Trophy has been accused of in the past, adding value to cricket has rarely been one of them. Minnows have played before and been greatly embarrassed too. And it's hardly as if the West Indians not of Reifer have gallivanted around the globe over the last many years adding value to the game.
It is too harsh, too righteous, too ignorant of a devilishly entangled issue and too disrespectful of those who are here. They are plainly a weak side and are likely to be beaten in all three games. But they did not devalue their match against Pakistan. They almost made something of it, added whatever value can be added to a match in which a target of 134 has been set. Their top order was poor, but it's not as if Pakistan's batted like kings. And if the pitch remains the same then other sides will also struggle with the grass.
They flashed and dashed around the field later with particular vim and gusto, a world away from the lethargy that so often engulfs Chris Gayle's sides. There were errors for sure, but the effort could not be questioned. Tino Best hared in wanting to break something, Darren Sammy and David Bernard didn't disgrace themselves and Gavin Tonge actually surpassed himself.
So fluid and rhythmic was Tonge that you believed him when he said after taking a career-best 4 for 25 that he could've bowled 20 overs straight. "I was feeling good today, good to bowl 20 overs straight because it was my type of pitch and I was feeling it good," Tonge said. "Coming in the rhythm was perfect."
They were the first four ODI wickets of his career and it felt as if he did his spell a little disservice by talking of the pitch as if it were a love he had spent his entire life chasing after. "That was a very good track for fast bowling and cricket in general," he said. "Having seen the Pakistan bowlers earlier in the day there was a little bit of nip in it and a fair bit of carry, but it was a very, very good pitch for fast bowling."
Bowlers are rarely so glowing about the merits of a pitch, especially after they have done so well on it. The natural urge is to play up your own skills and play down the surface's assistance. Not so Tonge. "We're going to be playing on the same pitch again," he said, in anticipation of a second date. "Hopefully it will be behaving the same, so I will put the ball on the spot and let the pitch do the same. Hopefully I'll be doing the same thing again."
Sure there was movement, but he did all that smart bowlers do on such surfaces, hitting the right areas and all that. The ball moved about, Pakistan's batsmen froze as they often do on such pitches and chasing such totals and it was all quite competitive. A slightly bigger target, a Mohammad Yousuf chance held onto early and who knows; Tonge didn't think the Yousuf drop made much of a difference in any case.
Inevitably, the issue of devaluation was skirted around. Questions were asked about second strings and future selections when and if the others come back, a little unfair on a man who has just recorded a career-best against serious opposition in a serious tournament, quite likely the biggest match of his career. "I definitely think so [forced a few people to take us seriously]. I wouldn't say it is a second string team because each guy has performed to be here and we are here to compete." The future, he said reasonably, would be left to the selectors.
Other teams and batsmen in the group may well be more ruthless with them, however, so the issue is unlikely to go away. Not that Tonge seemed worried, even expressing disappointment at not being able to bowl to Yuvraj Singh. "I was looking forward to playing against him, really looking forward to it."
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo