Will Afghanistan and Ireland get enough competitive games?

The ICC has announced that Afghanistan and Ireland are now full member nations, which means that they now get Test status.

It is exciting and wonderful news for the hard working cricketers from both the nations who probably dreamt of this day since they started playing cricket.

Even though this is a great news, it also brings about the question if these two nations will be able to get enough competitive games.

The team before these two countries to get Test status was Bangladesh. Bangladesh for a long time struggled to get opportunities to play against the top nations especially away from home.

Bangladesh in their young 17-year career have played just 47 tests away from home, and the majority of their games have been against Sri Lanka against who they have been able to play regularly over the last 17 years.

They only played their first test in India just recently after 17 years of being granted the Test status. They have never played Pakistan in UAE and haven’t toured Australia since 2003.

Out of the 47 Tests 32 have come against four nations which are Sri Lanka, New Zealand, West Indies and Zimbabwe. The rest of the five teams in total have invited Bangladesh only for a grand total of 15 games in 17 years. That does not even equate to even one Test a year.

This is something which the ICC has to guard against. Bangladesh still does not get enough games against the top 5 nations. They haven’t played a game in England since 2010 and in South Africa since 2008. Those are pretty shocking numbers to be honest. When the world is calling Bangladesh a mediocre team in Tests, the stats above tells us why.

Both these teams would be incredibly excited at the prospect of competing against the top nations and it would be a disappointment if they have to resort to just playing with each other all the time.

The individual cricketing boards also have a part to play in this induction. Countries like India, England, Pakistan and Australia need to try and squeeze in series against these two teams regularly, even it is just for a game or two.

I understand that initially there might be lots of one sided games but they will improve with time and with enough opportunities against top teams.

The addition of Bangladesh and now Afghanistan and Ireland is wonderful for cricket in general and sends out a great message for other associate nations.

The rapid strides that Afghanistan has taken will give great confidence to other associate nations to take their cricket seriously.

This is a great day for cricket but again steps have to be taken that these teams are engaged effectively to keep the interest alive in their respective countries.

Hopefully the ICC and the rest of the countries realise that and do their part in development of cricket in these two countries.

Welcome Afghanistan and Ireland, and I hope you have a wonderful time playing Test cricket.

Read my original article at The Roar

World Cup 2011 – It’s hard for an associate nation

Ricky Ponting in his recent interview said that minnows have no place in the world cup. I feel that that was pretty harsh statement and I feel sorry for the associate nations. The associate nations hardly play any major games and their only opportunity to showcase their talent is the world cup. ICC (International Cricket Council) is to be blamed for this situation. The associate nations have not always been a push over. They have given us some amazing games in the past and have helped throw the tournament wide open.

Who can forget the brilliant Kenya defeating WI in the 1996 world cup, Bangladesh defeating Pak in 1999, Kenya making the semis in 2003 and also Ireland defeating Pak in 2007 world cup? So it’s not as though these teams are here to just make up numbers, they have played some great cricket in the past. Yes I agree that these teams also are part of some pretty one sided affairs, so what? There are 19/20 years olds of these nations, whose dream is to play for their country and represent them at the world stage. World cup is their chance; no one knows when these teams would graduate from being an associate nation. The frustrating part is that ICC doesn’t seem to care about the same.

Kenya a very competitive team few years back has gone south rapidly. Lack of matches at the major level can be a reason. Kenya went back to wilderness after their stunning world cup exploit. They should have at least been a full member ODI side playing regularly against top International teams. The ICC faltered big time there. The sub-continent power helped Bangladesh to graduate to a full member very soon, even though they were not ready for such a giant leap at that time. The Associate nations qualify for the world cup and then no one knows what they play and what sort of practice they have ahead of such major tournament. You cannot expect a team which plays a test side once in 4 years to suddenly transform into world beaters.

The Dutch proved yesterday that these teams need to be given a chance. Netherlands team almost pulled off an upset against the English yesterday. The Canadian team also had their moment in the warm up games. This shows that these teams might lose most of the times but they have it in them to perform at this level. The enthusiasm and the passion with which these teams play in spite of being thrashed is a fantastic example. The ICC needs to make sure these teams are prepared to participate at this level in a major event. The drastic leap in standard between Associate level and International level can be very difficult for the teams to bridge.

The ICC should at least let the qualified teams to participate in domestic leagues of full member nations to get a glimpse of competitive cricket. The ICC can sure make some sort of arrangement with the respective boards. I don’t think we should just dismiss these teams but need to find a way to get these teams to be more prepared and ready for such an event. If we ignore these teams completely then the world will never know the Tikolo’s, the Ryan ten Doeschate’s of the world. These talents need to be showcased and what better than a world cup for them to do that? Every young player has a dream of playing in the world cup and we should not take away that dream in haste.

Sehwag’s blitz slays the tigers

India began their 2011 campaign yesterday with a convincing win against the Bangladesh. With the memories of the 2007 game still fresh in the mind of players and fans alike, the Indian team needed to get to a good start against Bangladesh. Sakib putting India in after winning the toss was a blessing in disguise for the nervous Indian team. All the talks of revenge before the game by the players only showed how much the team was hurt by that loss in 2007. So the last thing the team needed was a chase under lights against the host.

So when Sachin and Sehwag went into bat the intent was pretty clear. They wanted to attack the new ball and they did that with style. Sachin’s run out brought Ghambir to the crease with whom Sehwag shared another 83 runs. When Ghambir was dismissed for 39 India was placed pretty well with Sehwag already blazing way. This was the perfect time for world cup debutant Virat Kohli to make an entrance. With the game excellently setup, he just had to play and second fiddle to a rampant Sehwag. Sehwag and Kohli plundered the tigers attack, to share a brilliant 203 run partnership and by the time Sehwag exited for a brilliant 175 the match was already beyond Bangladesh. India finished with a mammoth 370/4 with hundreds from Sehwag and Kohli and for sure would have been a great relief for the Indian camp.

Bangladesh began their improbable chase in the right earnest. Kayes and Tamim started in a blazing fashion hammering Sreesanth for 24 runs in one over. After Kayes was dismissed by Munaf, Bangladesh even though did not lose too many wickets, seemed to be in no hurry. Tamim and captain Sakib shared a good partnership without being overly aggressive and the pressure finally got to the host. The final 5 wickets fell in a jiffy and they finished with 283/9 in 50 overs losing by 87 runs to India. India though would have been extremely happy with the performance of the top order as everyone looked in great touch.

Sehwag was brilliant throughout as he attacked the Bangladesh bowlers mercilessly on his way to his highest ODI score. Virat Kohli too justified his inclusion in the team ahead of Suresh Raina with a measured hundred. It was not all smooth sailing for the Indians though, the bowling and fielding surely needs a lots of improvement ahead of the important game against the English. India would surely want to revisit the bowling combination ahead of the next game. Sreesanth looked terribly out of form and was all over the place. Considering how well Munaf and Zaheer bowled, it was surely a bad performance by the Kerala speedster.

I am thinking India should seriously consider going with 2 spin/2 pace attack against all the teams. India’s strength is spin and I think no matter whom the opposition is India should play two spinners. The other aspect India should improve a lot is the fielding as the captain himself suggested after the game. The fielders barring a few in the game looked pretty lethargic and there were lots of misfields in the outfield. This might come to haunt us in the big and crucial games. So even though there is some scope for improvement for the Indian team ahead of their next game this was a very good performance. The batting which is India’s strength seems to be in excellent form which bodes well for the rest of the tournament.

Bangladesh has been taken care of and the early jitters seem to have been passed. India now would be playing England in their next game who is a much tougher opposition. The game will be played in Bangalore where the Indian spinners troubled the Aussies a lot in the warm up game. So Chawla might be included in the place of Sreesanth for that game. All in all this was a good beginning for the Indians to kick off their campaign. Dhoni will be extremely thrilled to have gotten the first game out of the way.

Team Selection Is Tomorrow For India’s Cricket Series Against South Africa (SA)

Dravid and Laxman were both injured during the test series in Bangladesh

When the selectors meet tomorrow to pick the squad for the upcoming home series against the South Africans, they have quite a few headaches. The injuries to Laxman, Dravid and Yuvraj has created quite a few vacancies in the squad. Even though Laxman hasn’t been ruled out yet there is a possibility that he might not make it. This series is one of the most important one for India as they have to at least secure a draw to retain their number 1 ranking and South Africa has to win the series to snatch it from the hosts.

The good news for India is that Sachin was in the field on the fourth day of the second test match against Bangladesh, which means that he will play. In the absence of Dravid and Yuvraj, the selectors need to fill two vacant spots in the batting order. It’s safe to assume that Vijay will occupy one of the spots but there are quite a few contenders for the second spot in the lineup.

So the options are Kaif, Raina, Badrinath, Pujara, and Manish Pandey. I will rule out Raina as he is more suited to the shorter format and also due to his well known weakness to short pitched bowling he might struggle against Steyn & Co. Among the other four, I will eliminate Manish too. In spite of his good showing in the domestic season, he is too young and lacks experience for as important a series as this one. So that leaves Kaif, Pujara and Badrinath. All three of them have been in great form and have been knocking at the door for some time now. I would personally prefer to have either Pujara or Badri in the squad as selecting Kaif would be a backward step for the team.

The bowling department needs a replacement too with the injury to Sreesanth. I hope that the selectors tryout either Tyagi or Mithun in the squad rather than going back to Munaf or RP Singh, who have failed to grab on to the opportunities given to them. Irfan Pathan also is an option as the third seamer as he would give the team an all-around option. He has been performing well in the domestic season. I am thinking that the spinners who played against Bangladesh will be retained for the home series too. All in all this is going to be an interesting selection.

India’s 2-0 win over Bangladesh has extended Dhoni’s unbeaten run to 11 (out of which India have won 8 ) tests now. I hope that his dream run continues against the saffers too. South Africa is in quite a quandary themselves now with the sudden resignation of Coach Mickey Arthur, after which the Cricket South Africa sacked all their selectors.