- Stephan Myburgh (Netherlands) - 224 runs at 32.00, including three fifties.
- Will Porterfield (Ireland) - 111 runs at 55.50, at a strike rate of 143.
- Wesley Barresi (Netherlands) - 143 runs at 23.83, crucial to two winning scores.
- Tom Cooper (Netherlands) - 231 runs at 57.75, currently the top run-scorer in the tournament.
- Shafiqullah Shenwari (Afghanistan) - 103 runs at 55.50, also at a strike rate of 143.
- Sharad Vesawkar (Nepal) - 91 runs at 30.33, scored 40 and 37 in successive innings.
- Kevin O'Brien (Ireland) - 59 runs and four wickets, scored his runs at over two-a-ball.
- Shakti Gauchan (Nepal) - five wickets at 14.80, all of his wickets came in victories.
- Timm van der Gugten (Netherlands) - nine wickets at 18.77, most dot balls of any bowler in the tournament.
- Basanta Regmi (Nepal) - five wickets at 11.20, with an economy rate of only 5.60.
- Ahsan Malik Jamil (Netherlands) - twelve wickets at 13.83, including that five-wicket haul.
The World T20 isn't over, but the Associates are finished now.
After a couple of weeks of Twenty20 cricket, the party is over at last for the Associates. They have been involved in shocks and upsets, and just generally good games of cricket, too. Their opportunities were limited by a format that excluded as many of them as possible from the main draw, but the Netherlands emerged from their recent struggles to be the Cinderella story of this tournament.
My tournament XI:
This tournament was not designed for Associates, but it has ended up being a very good advert for them. I'm not advocating the unfairly weighted format, but the quality of the cricket produced by cricket's more downtrodden nations has shown that the Associate-Full Member gap is reducing all the time. We have seen not one but three different Full Members defeated by three different Associates. Peter Borren's men are the heroes of the tournament, and 39-all-out aside, they have produced better cricket than England, Australia, Bangladesh or Zimbabwe have managed. They have mixed it with South Africa and New Zealand, too. Not bad at all for a team that was adjudged to be the ninth-best Associate as recently as January.
Now, first things first, I don't particularly have time to be writing articles at the moment, as you may have guessed from the relative silence coming from this blog. But a certain ICC press release helped me decide to make the time for this one.
In the official ICC report of today's World Twenty20 matches, the sum total mention of the history-making Hong Kong victory read thus: "Bangladesh opened the tournament on 16 March with a nine-wicket victory over Afghanistan and beat Nepal by eight wickets before losing to Hong Kong by two wickets in its last match." Arguably the biggest upset in World Twenty20 history, and it merited only a dozen words in the day's press release. Two of those words were "Hong Kong".
If you are the governing body for a potentially global sport, then you should be eager to sing the praises of such an obvious success story for the sport's development. If you are a cricket fan, then you should be eager to report back on such an incredible upset. And if you're none of those things, then you should still want to report back on the biggest story of the day, simply in order to get more readers. It's not complicated at all.
Instead, the ICC publish a report on the day's events that completely glosses over the fact that eleven mostly amateur cricketers have turned over a country who have been a member of cricket's exclusive top-tier for over a decade. It would have been less insulting not to mention them at all; instead, they have dismissed today's happenings as trivial, insignificant, and irrelevant.
Once again, I am appalled by the ICC's attitude to developing cricketing nations, but I am no longer surprised by it.
It's sad that we have to admit that cricket may never be a global game.
A lot has been written about the ICC re-vamp, and the general consensus is thus: firstly, a game run by three nations will never be properly global; secondly, nobody understands how the ICC algorithm works apart from the BCCI (possibly). In all honesty, that's what the re-vamp is all about: money. The bottom line is king, or at least the lining of deep Indian (and English, and Australian) pockets. If smaller nations have to beg for donations on Twitter so that they can travel to Spain to defend their title, then that's just the price that has to be paid, right?
Wrong. It is short-sighted and foolish for these three nations to think that such a restricted global game could ever be a good thing. As a cricket fan, would you ever want to see ten back-to-back Ashes Tests again? What about twenty, or thirty? A vibrant and varied international cricket scene would be beneficial for everyone: fans, players and, most importantly it seems, accountants and administrators.
A huge chunk of cash goes to India, of course, owing to their "higher contribution costs". The line we are sold is that this reflects their importance in the cricketing system, and will help to make cricket as a whole stronger. On the other hand, though, it means that more and more money stays in India, while a great deal less finds its way elsewhere.
In the short term, this means that Indian cricket can give itself a nice financial buffer, pretty much making itself invulnerable, even if every single other cricketing nation goes bankrupt. Their worst case scenario is that they end up following the American model, creating an enormous and glitzy IPL, the winners of which are crowned Champions of the Universe, win little figurines of Sachin Tendulkar, and whose players command huge salaries after being boot-camped into shape from an excessively young age by over-zealous parents trying to live their dreams through their offspring. Individual players become transient, homogeneous and dispensable as part of a well-oiled machine. Cricket still exists, but its character is lost.
Indian cricket absolutely can survive without the ICC, but the question is whether or not the ICC can survive without India. The events of the last couple of months would indicate not. A deal was brokered to keep India on-side, and changes were made from top to toe in the financial structure of the ICC. The idea, I suppose, was to secure the future of our game, but I think that a bit more benevolence would have been helpful, if fanciful.
Beyond the Test world, though, it pays to be one of the top six nations, however arbitrarily they are decided. If you're not in that semi-elite group, then you're gone. Cast adrift. There will likely be no more Afghanistans and no more Nepals. The Netherlands, Canada and Kenya will be fighting desperately to stop the game from collapsing completely under the joint burdens of lack of funding and lack of interest. From being one of the top three Associates just a few months ago, the KNCB is now fighting a desperate battle to bag T20 International status on the back of their World T20 performance and get some sort of cash coming in.
In the lower divisions, their squads will have to get past the self-defeating ICC Development Criteria. I tried to read them, but they were long, complex and confusing. The gist, though, seemed to be that unless something changes, the likes of the Coopers, van der Gugten, Swart, Rippon and van Beek might be looking at the end of their international careers, for the forseeable future at least. A lot of people whine about ex-pat cricketers in Associate sides, and I used to be one of them, but the more research I do the less I really mind. Of course, if the KNCB was just buying in any decent seamer with a Dutch granny then it wouldn't be the best development strategy, but as long as there are young Dutch cricketers around too then these players can share their experience and have more than just an on-field role. Keep this in mind for later.
If taken at face value, the pathway to Test status is a good thing for Associates everywhere, but in all reality it is simply another way to keep the (Full) Members Only club at exactly the size it is now. After all, Ireland have already jumped through every hoop thrown in their way on the dark and twisting road to Test cricket, and suddenly looked to be on the finishing straight. Thus, yet another hoop has been added, which can only be jumped through five years down the line. They will have to defeat the lowest ranking Test side at home and away if they want their place in the Test club. It's a good job we never had this particular hoop before - I doubt we'd have any more than two Test nations even now if that particular caveat had always applied.
Far more sensible would be to find out which cricket boards are interested in playing Test cricket and helping them to overcome any obstacles, rather than just throwing further obstacles in their way until they give up. That way, we could have more Test nations, not less, and we could bring the standards of the lowlier nations up, rather than just ignoring them and hoping they go away. It's only logical if you're a governing body.
Say, for instance, that the Netherlands want to play Tests. Rather than cutting them adrift after their unfortunate World Cup Qualifier, I would retain their ODI status. I would also support them in trying to establish a decent domestic structure. This would of course cost a lot of money, but it has to be an option. You could, theoretically, base one team out of each of six major centres for cricket in the Netherlands: VRA Cricket Club (Amstelveen), Amsterdamsche Cricket Club (Amstelveen), Hague Cricket Club (The Hague), Excelsior Cricket Club (Schiedam), Salland Cricket Club (Deventer), Kampong Cricket Club (Utrecht). It's not exactly like there would be a lack of players, either, seeing the number of players who have represented the Netherlands at various levels. The Topklasse already attracts enough overseas players in its current form and this more streamlined competition might attract even more. Players like Sharn Gomes, Heino Kuhn, Bradley Barnes, David Wiese and Cameron Borgas already visited Dutch shores in 2013, and a more prestigious competition might invent even more high-quality names. Perhaps two per team would keep standards up?
It's not only the Netherlands that could have taken advantage of such a scheme. Canada (Edmonton, King City, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg), Ireland (any six of many top-notch facilities), Scotland (Aberdeen, Ayr, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Stirling), and many others besides could all use the exact same blue-print for domestic structures, if they wanted to. A couple of obvious issues are quality and cost. A look at the current Logan Cup would suggest that the quality of such competitions wouldn't be any worse, while the cost could easily be met with a little bit of lateral thinking. After all, the local players don't have to be on full-time professional contracts - they could be on pay-as-you-play deals, with most of the games scheduled on weekends to keep costs down. Any overseas or southern hemisphere-based players could also be employed by local clubs in coaching roles during the season, which would kill two birds with one stone. First-class status would also make the competitions more attractive to potential sponsors, and it might even be possible to make a weekly (or similar) highlights show attractive to a television channel.
But rather than being used productively to globalise the game in any way, cricket's finances are being divided to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. The attitudes of the powers that be are archaic and dangerous, because I personally cannot see how they can help cricket to grow properly.
And not just in the World Twenty20.
It's not that long since I wrote about Hong Kong's Courtney Kruger and the battle he had to fight just to keep representing his country, but today I want to talk about his team-mates, and what they are on the verge of achieving. Already they have reached the World Twenty20 and bagged ODI status for the next few years, but I think that this is just the beginning.
Some of their players would be absolutely worthy of Full Member attention. Irfan Ahmed, for instance, is a dangerous Twenty20 batsman (a best of 100 and strike rate of 125) but he pales in comparison to his 23-year-old captain Jamie Atkinson. The 'keeper, who has also played for Durham MCCU and Warwickshire, has been destroying bowling attacks at an average of 37 and strike rate of 132. With that pair at the top of the order, they'll be setting the kinds of targets that will trouble good sides.
And a look at their three most recent results confirms their batting quality: today, they chased down 159 against Zimbabwe; last week they eked over the line against a disciplined Irish attack, and the day before that, they set a target so large that the Netherlands couldn't even get half-way.
Of course, batsmen don't win games on their own, and their ex-Pakistan Under-19 new ball pair of Tanwir Afzal (three for eight against Ireland) and Haseeb Amjad (five for twelve against Italy) help to balance out what has always been a very spin-centric attack. There are so many spin options available that Nizakat Khan often plays as a specialist batsman. And there's always the possibility that Sam Hain might come out of the woodwork. It's not just about players, though - facilities are also vital for any cricketing country.
Personally, I think that Hong Kong have two of the finest grounds anywhere in the world: the Kowloon Cricket Club (right), which offers an incredible skyscape to surround the ground (not to mention an incredible clubhouse), and the Hong Kong Cricket Club (left) are, quite simply, breathtaking. That HKCC image just became my desktop background.
Of course, defeating Zimbabwe (a Full Member, no less) in today's game has some of the gloss taken away by occurring in an insignificant 15-a-side fixture that may not have been the most competitive of events, but it is a win nonetheless, and no team likes losing. Particularly not against supposedly inferior opposition.
The huge gulf between Full Members and Associate nations simply does not exist any more. Ireland have beaten the West Indies, Afghanistan have beaten Bangladesh and Hong Kong have beaten Zimbabwe all in the matter of a couple of weeks. If that's not a clear and legible sign to the ICC that things need to change, I really don't know what is.
The ICC World Twenty20 is finally here. Almost.
There's now only a week to go before the World Twenty20 kicks off, with Afghanistan taking on the hosts in Dhaka. It may only be a glorified Qualifier, but this first round takes on real significance for the rest of the competition. Bangladesh haven't won a game since November, which includes a loss against Afghanistan that must give the Associate real confidence of reaching the Super 10 (read: actual tournament) stage. Ireland, meanwhile, have to overcome Zimbabwe to get there. They might even be the favourites to progress from their group.
Group A's Associates
Afghanistan are coming off their Asia Cup defeat of Bangladesh with genuine hopes of overturning them once more to make an unexpected appearance in the Super 10 stage. They have an explosive squad with real talent, although they are without the perennially injured Hamid Hassan once again.
It's difficult to pick out any particularly dangerous players from the Afghan squad because they can all pack a hefty punch. Mohammad Nabi and Gulbodin Naib are the two impact all-rounders, while Samiullah Shenwari's reputation will have ballooned in the Asia Cup. Add to that their Test class pace battery of Shapoor, Dawlat and Aftab Alam, and even without Hamid Hassan, this is a big opportunity for Afghanistan.
It might be Hong Kong's first time at the World Twenty20, but they've got players who are capable of mixing it with the best. At the top of the order, Irfan Ahmed and Jamie Atkinson have been terrorising Associate attacks for the past few years, and will be hopeful that they can do the same here. When you add to that the quality of bowling imports Haseeb Amjad and Tanwir Afzal, as well as spinners like Munir Dar, Nizakat Khan and Nadeem Ahmed, then Hong Kong look ideally suited for Bangladeshi wickets.
They too will go into the tournament with confidence, having only yesterday defeated Ireland with ease.
Nepal's fans never had any doubts that they would make it to Bangladesh, but for me it was a pleasant surprise that they made it here. With the all-round skills of Paras Khadka, as well as the spin threat of Shakti Gauchan and Basanta Regmi, they should be confident against their fellow Associates, but I don't think they have the consistent strength to take on Bangladesh yet. All the same, there is nobody over the age of thirty in this Nepalese team, and the experience should be very valuable for the future.
Keep an eye on Sharad Vesawkar, who is a far better batsman than his stats suggest.
Group B's Associates
Full Member to beat: Zimbabwe
A lot has been written about Ireland, and a lot of it by me, but their run-in to this tournament has been far from ideal. They won their first T20 in the Caribbean, but they also lost against Trinidad & Tobago 'A', and then failed to chase a sub-100 target against the West Indies. Add defeats against Worcestershire and Hong Kong to that, and you would understand if Irish confidence is not at its highest.
All the same, the Irish often rise to the occasion for global tournaments, and they will be hoping that this is no different. They are still the favourites to progress from Group B, and I think that Stuart Thompson will be instrumental if they do.
This tournament carries absolutely massive consequences for the Netherlands. After their nightmare World Cup Qualifier lost them ODI status, they will be counting on this tournament to keep them somewhere in the mix for T20 Internationals and whatever fixtures and finances arise from that. A lot will depend on Ahsan Malik Jamil, after his Qualifier wickets, and on Wesley Barresi's batting form. They will also be hoping to get some good performances out of Kiwi Under-19 Logan van Beek.
Rippon and Seelaar will hope to make the most of turning Bangladeshi wickets, as all of them are pretty much playing for their international careers. Also, keep an eye on Ben Cooper, brother of Aussie-again batsman Tom.
The United Arab Emirates cop a lot of flak for the amount of ex-pats in their side (which almost directly correlates to the number of ex-pats in their country) but it's a strategy that is bearing fruit. Now a part of all three World Cups, (CWC, WT20 and U19) this ageing side can hope to have younger players following in their footsteps.
All the same, a great deal will rest on the ageless shoulders of Khurram Khan, the exemplary 42-year old Pakistani all-rounder who continues to lead the UAE with his captaincy, batting, bowling and fielding and would be a credit to any of the Full Members in the tournament. The same cannot be said of all his colleagues, though, and against good opposition they will likely be run ragged in the field. In stark contrast to Nepal, no less than eight of the Emirati squad are over 30 years of age.
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Martin Jones is a teenage cricketer with an obsessive interest in the game, particularly the more obscure and quirky areas of it that don't get enough attention. He has also written articles for Planet Cricket, Third Man Cricket and ESPN Cricinfo.
Cricket by Association
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