I am crazy about Cricket and would love to see the likes of Afghanistan, Ireland, Hong Kong, Scotland, and other such smaller nations play Cricket more often at the world stage. Collectively, such teams who have not yet qualified for Full Membership are known as the Associate Teams (as opposed to the full member nations like India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and others – totaling 10) by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
In the World T20 tournament that started a couple of days back, the six associate members (who qualified through the 2015 ICC World T20 Qualifier) are playing amongst themselves and Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to quality for the 2 slots available at the Super 10 stage (8 full members have already qualified per their ranking as of 30 April 2014, while Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are battling at the Group Stage with the associates).
Here’s the layout of the tournament:
Group A – Bangladesh, Ireland, Netherlands, Oman
Group B – Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Scotland, Zimbabwe
|Super 10 (Group 1) – England, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Group B Winner
Super 10 (Group 2) – Australia, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Group A Winner
Considering Bangladesh defeated India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe in the ODI series last year and finished runners-up in the Asia Cup that concluded few days back, it would be so unfair to see them go out, if they do! Ireland and Netherlands too are not far behind in terms of competitiveness. So, it is really difficult to pick one clear winner between them…with a heavy heart I would pick Bangladesh. Same situation applies to Group B with Zimbabwe and Afghanistan doing quite well. Since only one team will qualify from each group in the First Round to Super 10, I think either of Bangladesh or Ireland will make it from Group A and Afghanistan or Zimbabwe from Group B, though they all have been proving their worth since long!
Let’s talk about Afghanistan. They have been playing splendid Cricket and yet have to fight so hard to quality for the only slot from their group. In the last year’s World Cup (WC), I saw a kid in Afghanistan glued to the television and cheering for his team. It was so heart-warming, a sight to die for in a war-ravaged country. Two days back, in Canada, the Afghan soldiers (they are there as part of exchange programme) requested their boss for a day off to support their team.
Shouldn’t ICC make it easier for Afghanistan to go through, by having at least 12 teams play in the Super 10 stage? Yes…most of us would agree! To me, that would be a step towards supporting world peace. But with Zimbabwe in the group, it might be difficult for them. And, how on earth are Pakistan and West Indies playing better than some of these associates…they have been so terrible in the last many years!
I would have liked to have 2 teams qualify from each Group to next stage, but ICC seems to have been cutting down on associates getting more chances to play with the full member nations. Such heart wrenching! In the next ODI WC to be held in England and Wales in 2019, only 10 teams would participate as opposed to 14 that did in 2015 WC. So, many associates would not even get to play (they’ll would go through a qualifier amongst themselves in 2018).
Such a disaster for the so-called ‘world’ cups! Blame it on the ICC and its management!