Countdown: 180 Days for the Cricket World Cup

ICC Cricket World Cup

ICC Cricket World Cup

We’re just under 6 months away from the start of the Cricket World Cup and I am super excited about it. Not only have I blocked out a significant portion of my calendar during this period to enjoy this wonderful event being played at my doorstep, I also have made plans to be at some of the more interesting matches. I even get to see some of my closest friends after many years as they make their way to Australia for the big event.

For the next 180 day plus the 40-odd days during the World Cup, there is going to be an absolute glut of one-dayers. Unfortunately test matches take a back seat for a while, but given the recent trend of tightly-contested, heart-stopping, nail-biting, and soul-searching inducing test matches it probably isn’t a bad thing.

In terms of predictions, it is very hard to pick a stand-out team that are favourites to win the World Cup at the moment. Australia, playing (mainly) at home are likely to be the team to beat. My prediction for the final 4 teams are:

  • Australia
  • Sri Lanka
  • South Africa
  • New Zealand

Who do you think will make it to the last 4?

A must watch for cricket fans: The Rise of the Afghan Cricket Team

Out of the Ashes: The Rise of the Afghan Cricket TeamI randomly came across a BBC documentary on the rise of the Afghan cricket team, and enjoyed watching every bit of it.

One message that I can relate  to very well is how sport can unite a country and in this case cricket gave (and still continues to give) the people of Afghanistan something to believe in and unite them in their common cause for peace. This is similar to when I was growing up in Sri Lanka with a civil war destroying the country, the only thing that all Sri Lankans had in common was their passion for cricket and wanting to see the Sri Lankan cricket team do well. The world cup win in 1996 further bonded the people of the country, regardless of which side of the conflict they were from.

The story of the Afghan cricketers is inspiring on many fronts:

  1. The players had to risk their lives to play a game they enjoyed.
  2. The had to overcome religious sensitivities. “If you wear a beard and pray, then you can play cricket” was a line quoted in the documentary.
  3. They had to overcome social biases just to play cricket. Being called a “gangster” for playing a sport is not something any of us would have ever experienced!
  4. Not having the basic resources to support player development, but yet they improvise with what they have.
  5. All the progress to date has been built upon the passion of the players and their leaders, who all want to do well.
  6. The players take what they do seriously, but they also enjoy the small victories as much as any team would do if they win a world cup.

You can see the documentary on ABC iView at Out of the Ashes: The Rise of the Afghan Cricket Team. I don’t know if this video is accessible for anyone outside of Australia though. If you can, enjoy!

A simple solution for slow over rates in test cricket – play more!

Test Cricket

With glorious test cricket back after a glut of ODIs and T20 games, there is an ongoing debate around the slow over rates in test cricket and how the issue should be addressed. However, as a spectator I feel short changed.

Yes, let’s insist on teams bowling their minimum overs number of overs in a day. And since there is the option to extend play by up to 30 minutes extra at the end of each day, why not just make a normal day of test cricket last 30 minutes longer? It’s not as if everyone shuts shop and goes home after 6 hours of play anymore. With the exception of games in the sub-continent and in the Caribbean where spinners play a huge role, most games call for the extra time available.. so let’s just use it!

How good was Darren Sammy?

Cricket BallI couldn’t take my eyes of the tv last night watching the tight finish between the Aussies and the Windies at the World T20. As much as the groundwork was laid by Gayle and Bravo in particular, Darren Sammy was just calm, collected and absolutely brilliant!

Watching Sammy throw away his bat and take off knowing he won the match, while the ball hadn’t cleared the boundary showed just how much the win meant to him… Oh, and it’s not everyday you see Chris Gayle get so excited that he falls off his feet :-)

Isn’t it time cricket became a Global sport?

Cricket Ball

Yes, there are countries from all over the world playing cricket in the top-tier as well as associate and non-associate countries playing in various world groups. Yet, none of these “minor” teams generate as much excitement or passion in their own countries or in the media as when the top teams play each other.

I am longing for the day where we will see associate and non-associate countries such as Afghanistan, Ireland, Canada, USA, Namibia and even Argentina, Belgium and China play cricket with the big boys in at least the 20-20 format, if not in ODIs, fairly regularly.

What if all the full member countries are made to play against 2 or 3 associate countries each year as part of the so called ICC “Future Tours Programme” or FTP? Admittedly they will not be money spinners, but in terms of exposure for the game and the publicity it can generate in those countries, wouldn’t that simply outweigh the financial gains?

Purely hypothetical of course, but how much more fun and excitement would there be to see 200-odd countries having to qualify in order to play in the cricket world cup, similar to soccer and to a lesser degree, rugby? No automatic entry, unless you’re hosting the tournament, for obvious reasons. Imagine the passion for the sport and the support this would generate in all those countries? We might finally bridge the gap between the top-tier countries and the rest…

By the way, kudos to  Afghanistan who had to overcome massive challenges and are yet able to qualify for and compete in the Asia Cup which is taking place at the moment and for also qualifying for the world cup next year.