ICC World Cup 2015: Struggling full members need to step up or face further embarrassment
Sport doesn’t take incompetence or undue arrogance. The lessons for those who test its tolerance can sometimes be brutally painful as it is in the ongoing World Cup. West Indies, England, and Pakistan have been at the receiving end of some severely bruising treatment this past week. Sri Lanka seem keen to join the wagon of woes with a couple of less than desirable performances. It was as if they had taunted the wrath of the cricketing Gods, who tore into them with carnal delight.
Step up or step out
On the one hand, an event such as the World Cup can define a career; on the other, it can also prove to be a deeply scarring experience as we have seen in the past few days. Sachin Tendulkar spent an entire lifetime craving an opportunity to earn an elusive winner’s medallion. Several others have faded away even before they could get a scent of the precious metal.
Somewhere in between those extremes lurks a dark monster, capable of subjecting its ill prepared victims to a fate far worse than not laying hands on the prized trophy. The minnows – the cricketing wannabe teams – enter the tournament knowing fully well that they might be shown up for their inadequacies. The big teams, though, are expected to put out their best show and run it close, if not win it.
But then sport takes no prisoners and the manner in which Ireland disrobed West Indies in front of a shocked multitude of people was a grim reminder of the fate that awaits those that fail to fasten their straps.
Take heart from West Indies
Tony Cozier, the resident expert on West Indies cricket, wrote that his team was “embarrassingly inferior” to Ireland. Coming from Cozier, who has seen all available shades of Windies cricket, it was a damning indictment of the unit. As they walked off stark naked, humiliated and ravaged, many thought that the team might be destroyed by the Irish assault.
The same fate befell England against the hosts New Zealand. Only this time the outcome was far more barbaric. Suffice to say that most of those English players tossed in their bed feeling deeply disrobed even if they were wearing three layers of clothing.
Sir Geoffrey Boycott was incensed enough to call his compatriots “hopeless losers”, and Ian Bell issued an apology to the fans for “embarrassing” them with their performance. But even in the darkest moment of despair, sport offers hope.
For those that offer their heart, sport stretches out its arms in forgiveness. The West Indies embraced it with pleasure when they redeemed themselves to an extent with a brutal assault on Pakistan, to reclaim some of the dignity they lost in that match against Ireland.
The brave men from Ireland and Afghanistan are acquitting themselves with pride and purpose. Not only are they playing the game with unfathomable faith in themselves, but in doing so, they are teaching the more fancied teams a few lessons they seem to have forgotten.
Turn it around and make it memorable
Back to the tormented men – the Lankans joined the party with a dismal effort before scraping past the fledgling Afghans. You can be certain that today’s match may have left many an islander feeling the gravity of being on a sinking boat. Wonder what Arjuna Ranatunga might want to say now, especially since he is the man in charge of Ports and Shipping.
The tournament is significant for the Lankans, as it is the last chance for two of their legends – Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene – to grasp at the one piece of silver that is treasured more than any in the game of cricket.
Pakistan, England and Sri Lanka – Each of them can still take comfort from the redemption of the Windies and the cushion offered by the format of this tournament. They could still scrape through to the last eight, but the road they traverse will only have turned a full circle if they begin to get their mind and skills in the right places.
The choices are starkly clear – an abject surrender and lasting disgrace or a series of purposeful performances to reclaim lost honour. The journey of some of these teams from torment to triumph could indeed turn into a compelling narrative and a deeply memorable experience for the millions of hearts following every beat of this topsy-turvy tournament.