Associate Nations Can Be Proud

Two things were evident from the Associates nations during this ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.  Firstly, how close the batting is getting to the Full Members and, secondly, how the Associate nations struggled with the ball.  This is an area that requires further development and a focus on talent identification, especially with Test cricket potentially two years away.

AFGHANISTAN – Afghanistan’s World Cup will be remembered for missed opportunities, especially against Sri Lanka.  Their start with the bat and finish in both disciplines was inconsistent and this proved to be their downfall.  Their three quickies Hamid Hassan, Shapoor and Dawlat Zadran have been outstanding, with 24 wickets between them and they have certainly enhanced their reputation.  Samiullah Shenwari was a match-winner and a ‘go to’ man throughout the tournament in which he scored just over 250 runs.  The fielding was only average at best and this is certainly an area that they need to be able to compete with full members better.  However, for me the non-selection of a genuine batting striker up front will be something they may now regret.  One thing is for sure, Afghanistan will be a better side after this World Cup experience.

UAE – At the start of this World Cup, I must admit I feared for the UAE but I shouldn’t have been concerned.  With the exception of the game against India and the early stages of the West Indies game, the UAE held their own.  Their fast bowlers regularly asked questions with the new ball and their spinners performed well.  Mohammad Naveed, Manjula Guruge and Amjad Javed hunted as a pack throughout the tournament and were certainly challenging.  Naveed rushed a few high quality batsmen on a regular basis.  Having Aqib Javed, the 1992 World Cup winner, as coach has clearly helped their attack.  Khurram Khan will probably hang his bat up at the end of this World Cup and return to the skies in First Class with Emirates.  So, who will be the next superstar of the UAE cricket?  Shaiman Anwar is well placed.  When the 29th match of this World Cup started he was the leading run-scorer with 270 runs at an average of 67.50 and a strike-rate of 100.  A considerable achievement by Anwar.  The only shame is that he is already 35!

IRELAND – Ireland matched their 2007 campaign with two wins against Full Members.  Yes, Ireland won one more game, but this time they have failed to progress to the next stage.  Before the World Cup began, Ireland’s CEO, Warren Deutrom, was interviewed on Irish cricket show “The Slog Sweep”.  He said:  ‘If we don’t make it out of the pool stage, we would regard that as a failure which, therefore, means being in the quarter-final is our expectation.’  Team Ireland will be bitterly disappointed to be departing the competition at this stage as most would have believed three wins would secure a quarter-final berth.  In the end, it came down to net run-rate.  One person that certainly didn’t disappoint was Andrew Balbirnie whose performance in a world class batting line-up was outstanding.  He took on the powerhouse South Africa attack and narrowly missed out on a deserving ODI century against Zimbabwe.  I truly hope Ed Joyce continues to play, he is a class act and Ireland’s best-ever batsman, however, if he doesn’t, then Balbirnie is the man to fill these massive shoes.  I must mention John Mooney who was handed the toughest job in this tournament, the new ball.  Ireland only took five wickets in the first Powerplay overs throughout the group stage, however, John’s effort, commitment and competitiveness was there for everyone to see.  Taking wickets is key to success in this format of the modern game.  I strongly believe Ireland were a specialist bowler short in their starting 11 throughout the tournament.

SCOTLAND – It was a case of ‘near but yet so far’ for Scotland at this World Cup.  Their games against Afghanistan and Bangladesh could have been so different if a little bit of luck had gone Scotland’s way.  If Matt Machan’s under arm throw had hit the stumps and run-out Shapoor Zadran.  If Scotland had scored close to what the West Indies did against Ireland in the final 10 overs at the same ground against Bangladesh, they would have been on four points heading into their final two games and a real chance of a quarter-final spot.  Kyle Coetzer was outstanding, especially in his first four games, scoring 253 runs.  Kyle has certainly enhanced his international reputation.  However, two ducks to finish the tournament was a disappointing end for him.  He thoroughly deserved his Player of the Match award versus Bangladesh with a brilliant 156.  Josh Davey is another to shine on the hardest stage of all.  He was the leading wicket-taker after the 35th game of this World Cup with 14 wickets at 19.50.  Well done mate.  Scotland is certainly returning to the golden days of the mid 2000’s and credit must go to their coaching staff for what they have achieved in a short space of time.  The team now has a good balance of youth and experience and is well led by current Associate Player of the Year Preston Mommsen.

Having played in the 2007 and 2011 World Cups and having watched the group stages this year, I strongly believe the skill levels of all four Associate competitors has increased.  This improvement is largely due to Richard Done and the ICC’s High Performance Programme.  The additional funding made available, the recent tri-series in Dubai and acclimatisation tours of Australia and New Zealand before Christmas helped prepare these Associate teams who held their own throughout.

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