A ray of 'Green' hope for the world of cricket
ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 is on with 14 teams participating from all around the world. Being an occasional Football watcher as well, I have seen how there are more than twice the teams in FIFA WC. In many ways, this helps in making it a “world” event, because close to 200 countries are watching and millions of people are hooked. With Cricket, not more than 35 countries watch the event, in fact, most people in Canada and Netherlands have probably little idea that their countries are playing a Cricket World Cup. I would love to see Cricket getting followed the way Football is, all over the world. (Though ICC isn’t helping in this by making the 2015 edition a ten team tournament, but more on that here.)
More than anything else, one thing that is most vital for this to happen is spreading of the game to new countries and these countries to start improving their level of cricket. Eventually, these teams should match the levels of test playing sides. This will obviously be a long process and not occur in a fortnight. One unit that is taking steady strides in this direction is Team Ireland.
Back in 2007, Ireland were a bunch of unknown players. They came into their first World Cup and started off their campaign with a tie against Zimbabwe. What really turned heads was the big upset against Pakistan. The win not only made sure that they went into the next round the WC, but also kicked Pakistan out in the very first round. This team even went onto beat Bangladesh though it lost all the other games.
With their consistent performances in the World Cricket League, they have proved that they are among the top associate nations for sure. In spite of having lost Eoin Morgan to England, they still have same 8 players who played for them in ’07. To add to this, players like Ed Joyce and George Dockrell have been useful add-ons. What I really enjoyed watching was the spirit in which they played. Ireland have been absolutely dedicated in their efforts and their fielding display shows that. They are probably the second-best fielding unit in this World Cup, after the South Africans. In the 3 matches so far, they have managed an upset against the English, while they have lost to both hosts Bangladesh and India. In the two matches lost, they showed good fight as they took wickets at consistent intervals and fielded sharply. Batting effort of William Potterfield versus India was also worth appreciating.
While in the match against England, they were out of contention after being just over a hundred for 5 down, chasing 300 plus. However, a superb and confident Kevin O’Brien took apart the bowlers and was superbly supported by nerveless John Mooney and Alex Cusack. Not to forget, 18 year old Dockrell is among the best spinners among associate countries. Opener Paul Sterling has also shown sparks of brilliance once in a while.
All these are signs of a superb future that Ireland cricket can achieve, if the same level of dedication and hardwork is put in by the players and related administrative staff. Also, their administration should enforce stricter laws to make sure, players don’t migrate away to England like Eoin Morgan has. However, we must understand that giving it test status can prove to be fatal, as it happened with Bangladesh. So, they should be allowed to grow into a team which can regularly beat the main teams in ODIs and once they start doing it, they could be given test status. This road of development, is a rather long one for not only the Irish, but any team hoping to make it as a Full member of the ICC.
Ireland may not manage to qualify for the Quarter Finals this time, but one thing is guaranteed, they will not go down with a fight. I am not sure if it will actually happen or not, but I hope to see them in another World Cup again, since they have been spirited, competitive and enjoyable to watch.