The 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup has made for good viewing so far. Perhaps not very good, but certainly good. One has to say India has been the most impressive so far, winning all its matches in dominant fashion to date. New Zealand; or N’w Z’l’nd as I prefer to call them, has bested its opposition emphatically twice while putting in two additional brilliant bowling performances very much tempered by a pair of ordinary batting displays. Some are concerned by the way the Black Caps struggled to chase small targets but I think it might be a good thing for the men from Middle Earth to have been put under pressure and still emerge victorious.
Sri Lanka has recovered well from its opening day defeat to the Kiwis and is looking better by the game. South Africa started reasonably well before a heavy defeat to the reigning world champions but then bounced back to blow the Windies away. The Proteas are going to be there or thereabouts come the business end of the tournament while the West Indies will not. Co-host Australia is in danger of a 1992 repeat however.
After a sensational slaying of England (who have been woeful) rain interfered with what would have been a likely beating of Bangladesh. Instead the Aussies shared the points with the grateful and timid Tigers before losing to their co-hosts. The Baggy Greens are in a potentially precarious position whereby another defeat, possibly to the Lankan Lions, would see them finish third in Pool A and set up a likely quarter-final against the South Africans. Neither side would want that match up so early on, I am sure. In 1992 the Australians failed to progress to the knockout stage so it is not going to be as dramatic 23 years later, but the devastation of not reaching the final four is a plausible probability.
That brings me to the minnows. The International Cricket Council has spoken of reducing the number of teams from 14 to 10 come 2019. This is the worst thing that could happen to this great sport since the Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) staged a coup almost a year ago to assume power of world cricket. Of course you do not want to see huge hidings at the sport’s flagship tournament so we cannot have too many sides but by eliminating the Associate sides from the World Cup, how are we developing and growing the game? Or is it all about how much money the BCCI can make?
Ireland, in my view, has proven it is ready for Test status. They have the personnel and have proven they can mix it with the big boys. Crucially, almost the entire Irish squad is made up of players from the Emerald Island so clearly there is a passion for the game over there. Why does Ireland need to win the ICC Intercontinental Cup in 2017 and then beat the lowest-ranked Test side in a four-match Test series in 2018 when we can all see they are ready for promotion now?
Afghanistan is another to keep an eye on. The Afghans are the success story of world cricket, if not world sport, for me right now. Some 15 years ago they did not even have a team. Now they are at the World Cup, winning matches and proving credible opponents against the sport’s big guns.
Now I do not believe they are ready for Test cricket yet but given their meteoric rise surely in the coming decade Test matches in Kabul against the host country is more than just a dream. What I love most about this war-torn nation is that all their players are from Afghanistan. Clearly that country has a hunger for cricket. Will the BCCI, sorry ICC, come to the party? I fear not as the only people eating right now are Narayanaswami Srinivasan and his henchmen.