ICC World Cup Qualifiers 2009 April 20, 2009

Ireland take trophy, Afghans the headlines

It took 12 teams 54 matches spread over 19 days to determine the best of the rest, the countries next in the queue for an ICC handout and those fortunate four who will play in the 2011 World Cup

Marks out of ten | Who got what from the Qualifiers | Statistics

It took 12 teams 54 matches spread over 19 days to determine the best of the rest, the countries next in the queue for an ICC handout and those fortunate four who will play in the 2011 World Cup. The ICC World Cup Qualifiers lurked deferentially in the shadow of the looming Indian Premier League, yet held its own as the Associates' showcase event and even inducted a war-torn nation as one of the sport's own. Beat that, Mr Modi.

With the favourites Ireland reaching and winning the final, it appears that the whole show went to form, and statistically that is true. Of the top six Associates, only Bermuda lost their ODI status, but we'll come to that particular miserable tale later. Had Scotland lost their international ranking - they escaped by a cat's whisker and performed poorly - the ICC would have had two countries into whom four years of investment and nurturing were practically wasted. Instead, bar the occasional flabbergasting upset, the top eight countries have all shown encouraging improvement to justify their rankings. The ICC is pelted with vitriol almost by default by world cricket, but its commitment and hands-on approach to developing nations deserves acknowledgement.

Cricket being cricket, the tournament was not without incident. After all, the majority of these players remain amateurs, forsaking careers and families for national pride or simply their own love of the sport. Even Ireland - the envy of opposing coaches with their increasing professionalism - had their difficulties. They were outplayed by the romantics' choice of refugees, Afghanistan, and the call-up by England of Eoin Morgan led to rumours of a split between him and the towering presence of his coach, Phil Simmons. Morgan is not, and cannot, be blamed for seeking pastures new, or pastures rich. International cricket is his ambition and, judging by his eight innings in this tournament, not to mention his form for Middlesex, probably his calling.

Likewise Netherlands' Ryan ten Doeschate, who cut short his international appearances to commit to Essex. To Netherlands' credit, they survived without his sublime allround abilities, though ironically it was another ECB-contracted batsman, Alexei Kervezee, still only 19, who anchored many of their innings (461 runs @ 51.22). A brilliant fielder and increasingly mature batsman, it may not be long before he swaps Netherlands for New Road on a more full-time basis. These were the undercurrents of irritation which gently rumbled throughout this tournament, but it was ever thus for Associate cricket, never more so than for the European nations.

The story of the past few weeks, however, came from a squad of men hailing from a country that most Europeans associate with two terrible Ts: terrorism and Taliban. Afghanistan stole the hearts, upset the odds and left several teams looking foolishly complacent. Ireland were rolled over by 22 runs, with Hamid Hassan - a fast bowler destined for county cricket one day - snaring five. Scotland, too, were shrugged aside quite comfortably, as were Bermuda. These were victories not of a squad of wannabes, but of cricketers whose ambition stretches far beyond this level.

They blew hot and cold, expectedly, but several figures (and characters) enhanced their reputations handsomely. Alongside Hassan was Shapoor Zadran, a tall and accurate left-arm seamer. Karim Khan, too, hits the ball cleaner than most and when his injured finger prevented him from standing behind the stumps, he turned to offspin and picked up 11 cheap wickets.

The story of the past few weeks, however, came from a squad of men hailing from a country that most Europeans associate with two terrible Ts: terrorism and Taliban. Afghanistan stole the hearts, upset the odds and left several teams looking foolishly complacent

Many put their journey to the Super Eights down to fluke or fortune but, by the end of the tournament, opposing teams readily conceded Afghanistan as a talented team and potent threat to their World Cup push, however extraordinary their backgrounds may be. The funding they will now receive will transform their lives as people and cricketers, yet Afghanistan remains a country desperately seeking an identity other than one at war with the west. Some grass pitches would help, too, but now is not the time to pontificate negatively while the celebrations in Peshawar, Jalalabad and Kabul resonate raucously and justifiably.

From the good, to Bermuda, whose performance was less a disappointment, more a depressingly predictable blight of underachievement. Poor David Hemp topped the overall averages with 557 runs at 185.66, batting and fielding with the professionalism and self-pride you would expect. With nobody for support, Hemp resembled a man with a bilge pump on a sinking ship while his crew had taken the lifeboats and champagne and were sailing to calmer waters.

Gus Logie's attack on the players' lack of motivation and focus angered the players, some of whom would rather turn their arm over, gently, in domestic cricket than represent their country. Three opposing players told Cricinfo that their demotion was both unsurprising and deserved. For now, they are out of the limelight. That alone might be sufficient inspiration to breed a new, ambitious Bermuda. Just don't hold your breath.

Bermuda's tribulations serve as a reminder to other nations and the ICC. With funding comes responsibility. In that respect, ICC is much like the managing director of a business. It is as keen to help these nations - apprentices, if you like - as they are themselves, and will spoon-feed them money, equipment, and create a structure upon which they will hopefully build. It can't, however, breast feed them forever. The weaning process has to happen at some point.

Richard Done, ICC's High Performance Manager, cut to the chase at the beginning of the tournament when he outlined his and ICC's blueprint for Associate cricket. Top of the list is professionalisation - a safety net for players who can then concentrate on their own performances without the burden of finding an employer willing to let them take four weeks off every now and then to play cricket. Amateur status still rules the roost. The UAE, for example, are entirely amateur yet are screaming with raw ability (their opening bowler, Amjad Javed, smashed 164). Were cricket to be their full-time career, with a proper managerial board in place, UAE and other countries would improve out of sight. There is no overnight solution, however; look what US$11m of investment by Bermuda's government has had on the sport in their country.

The top six have plenty on their schedule, and the next intriguing instalment is to see how Afghanistan fare as four-day cricketers in the ICC Intercontinental Cup. Ireland may have lofted the trophy on Sunday, and continue to stretch ahead of the pack, but there is no doubt which team has stolen their thunder these past three weeks. The next four years promise to be as exhilarating and unpredictable as Kabul itself.

Will Luke is assistant editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nasir on April 22, 2009, 5:26 GMT

    even 2 kilo meters road we drive in 2 hours a crowed I have never seen before, players were most happy and brave I saw Karim so many tears run down his cheeks and was saying " I am sorry my nation we did not make it to the world cup" even we won from some teams who previously beat the ICC full members like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe he was talking about Ireland and Scotland he pointed that their every things, Helmet, bat, pads, gloves and other tools were very expensive and we had all the tools very cheap and all the thing were not as good as their tools were, finally he pointed and ask the government to help with the cricket growth and building some grounds especially he pointed Gul Agha Shirzai the governor of Ningarhar province and Karim requested him to put his best concentration and refer for the issue.

    Thanks Khogiani

  • Nasir on April 22, 2009, 5:25 GMT

    " after the Kabul arrival some players started the trip to come their homeland Jalalabad when the players left Kabul - Jalalabad the local media ( TV channels and Radios announced that players are coming to Jalalabad here now start the funs and thousands of people out the roads they block the roads and celebrating the roads with roses and banners around two hundreds Cars including mine were waiting for the players in half way from Kabul to Jalalabad every where the flags were waving and waiting to see the heroes finally we saw that they arrived having garlands on the necks and were looking much happy this time, when we entered to the city no body can ever imagine how many people were out just like the day of voting I am sure if any cricketer from the team candidate him self for the presidential election on the day he might own, children, younger and older men, police and the whole province was out to the city and the governor house

  • Nasir on April 22, 2009, 5:24 GMT

    What that we compose in our slight we must take even if it's impossible though, So far Supper eight and supper six were in our slight this time while our concern for world cup will be in the next qualifying round, he will be Nawroz who will hoist the trophy, after the heroes arrived at Kabul a small range of crowed was available at the Airport players were looking quite unhappy, they were carried to the national Olympic arena only hundreds of people were there and few parliament members, after a hour the celebration changed the shape and five hundreds students of Ningarhar university arrived at Kabul it was interesting having a Drum and music bands, on the time I felt that the players cheeks were red and smiles were looming on lips when they saw the eager of cricket from Ningarhar arrived at the Stadium " Ningarhar The place" from where the six heroes found the way to the national team "Karim Sadiq, Hasti Gul, Hassan, Shinwari, Shafiqullah and Sehzad"

  • Tim on April 21, 2009, 22:44 GMT

    A well written and engaging piece. Cricket is truely a world game.

  • David on April 21, 2009, 18:51 GMT

    So Bermuda is the huge dissapointment yet Scotland, who had similar results (losing to Afghanistan) gets a pass? The fact that only Hemp got a positive shout and no kudos whatsoever to Steven Outerbridge, clearly means that the writers here simply have a serious grudge against the country. Congrats to the teams that made the WC and to Afghanistan for their meteoric rise. To the Cricinfo staffers, try not to let your personal disgust come out in your reporting in the future.

  • david on April 21, 2009, 6:17 GMT

    There does need to be something done to help these teams keep their best players. Especially Ireland who are never going to reach their potential if every 2nd good player they produce is pinched by England. Perhaps allowing a player to move between a full member and an associate would work. I would also love to see the top players in these nations get more time against the top nations. Maybe it is worth seeing a combined squad from the division 1 teams take a regular part in tri series and the like, after all this is bassically what the WI do. They are a group of nations playing together.

  • Hashaam on April 21, 2009, 2:02 GMT

    i resent the implication by mithoauau that monies invested in USA cricket are being "thrown away" I play club cricket in Texas and there are well over 10,000 other players in the States from every corner of the world. The development of the game here is rising rapidly and with the appointment of our CEO, ODI status for our ground and a growing audience we look and hope to be a Division I associate in the next few years.

  • Nahid on April 21, 2009, 1:46 GMT

    Afganistan has played tremendous cricket. Associate's world cup qualifiers was thrilling to the last day! Who says that 20twenty is eliminating ODIs. ODIs will have always have their place. ICC has done a tremendous job with promoting the game outside the full members...

  • Premarajah on April 21, 2009, 1:12 GMT

    I am actually so touched by the performance of the Afghans. It is rather like Susan Boyle, looked like a joke at the start and proved everyone wrong at the end. I personally cheer the underdogs a great deal and thus am very happy about Afghanistan receiving ODI status. Further, I'm a proud Sri Lankan and congratulate Afghanistan on making Asian cricket stronger.

  • Suleman on April 21, 2009, 0:34 GMT

    I think that Will Luke writes extremely well. Long may he continue !

  • No featured comments at the moment.