I think we have all been hearing the mixed opinions from all quarters regarding the Associate Nations ever since this world cup started. Some saying that they should not be included in the world cup as the matches are completely one sided and don’t present quality. The other side argues that associate nations need to be nurtured and given these chances so that Cricket as a sport can grow.
Ricky Ponting in fact has been quite critical of the ICC about getting so many minnows and associate nations playing that it takes away from the quality of the world cup and that the ICC should bring down the number of teams to participate in this ever so prestigious tournament. Spoken like a true arrogant Aussie.
On March 2nd, 2011 one more in a long line of cricketing upsets took pl ace at the hands of one of these ‘Associate Nations’. The IRISH beat England by 3 wickets and 4 balls to spare in chasing down a target of 328. They did so after at one stage being 111-5. They did so at the back of a world cup record fastest century by Kevin O’Brian. 100 of 50 balls. He was smacking the English attack to all parts of the park. Mr. O’Brian now also has the longest 6 to be hit in the tournament so far, a whopping 102 m.
The Irish did in 2007 as well when they famously beat Pakistan and made it through to the Super Eights. Bangladesh have inflicted defeat upon Pakistan, Australia, India etc in the past. Zimbabwe beat the South Africans in 99. Sri Lanka when they were not a test playing nation beat India in 79. And as clear under dogs beat Australia in 96 to claim the cup. Netherlands almost took England in their first match of this world cup and let’s not forget they did beat them in 2009’s T20 World Cup. Kenya beat West Indies in 96 and then Sri Lanka in 2003 in a campaign which saw them finish as Semi Finalists. I could continue with my list of upsets in World Cups or otherwise by Associate Nations and minnows.
I am of the opinion that the ICC should give every possible chance to these countries to come and rub shoulders with the big boys of cricket. That’s how the game will grow on global scale. And that is how these sides will also improve by facing quality sides.
I feel that decreasing the number of associate nations to be playing in the world cup is not a good move. We need to keep them. Teams like Ireland are quite capable of causing upsets. And these upsets boost the team and country’s confidence. We need these exciting twists in our world cups. Bundling them out of the World Cup tournament altogether is not going to help the cause, it will harm it. Cricket has always played second fiddle to Football as a global game …. but no where near it. IF cricket is to grow and aim itself to get a whole lot closer to Football on a global scale… then more and more countries need to start playing cricket.