SPORTS TRIBUNE
 


Catching up
The underdogs who have done well in the World Cup ought to receive unstinting support from the cricketing fraternity in the long run, writes Vikramdeep Johal
T
he day after Bangladesh defeated India at Port of Spain, their media showered praise on the team but did not regard the victory as a miracle or a fluke. Tareq Mahmood, writing for the Prathom Alo newspaper, went to the extent of alleging that India did not consider it “financially viable” to play against Bangladesh on a regular basis.


Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar (right) and team-mate Mushfiqur Rahim celebrate the superb victory over India. — Photo by AFP photo

Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar and team-mate Mushfiqur Rahim celebrate the superb victory over India

Six mania
S
ir Garfield Sobers joined Herschelle Gibbs, the newest member of cricket’s most exclusive 6-6-6-6-6-6 club, to present $1 million cheque to charity. South African Gibbs emulated the West Indian’s feat last week when he became the first man to hit six sixes in an over in an international match, striking the unfortunate Dutch bowler Daan van Bunge over the short Warner Park boundary for 36 runs.
West Indian cricket legend Sir Garfield Sobers and South African batsman Herschelle Gibbs hold a charity cheque for $1 million at a function in St Kitts and Nevis

TWO OF A KIND: West Indian cricket legend Sir Garfield Sobers (right) and South African batsman Herschelle Gibbs hold a charity cheque for $1 million at a function in St Kitts and Nevis. — Photo by AFP photo

The crossover men
Simon Evans
A
West Indian opens the bowling for a Canadian side captained by an Australian, the best Dutch player comes from South Africa, and three Australians and a South African have enjoyed success with Ireland.


Canada’s pace bowler Anderson Cummins (left) played for the West Indies in the 1992 World Cup; Ireland captain Trent Johnston began his career with New South Wales in Australian domestic cricket. — Photos by AFP
photo

Canada’s pace bowler Anderson Cummins played for the West Indies in the 1992 World Cup; Ireland captain Trent Johnston began his career with New South Wales in Australian domestic cricket

Off-field shots
E
ngland all-rounder Andrew Flintoff’s performance off the field has been far more eye-catching than on it so far during the World Cup. A day after he was made to sit out of the match against Canada, an apologetic Flintoff promised there would never be a repeat of the late-night drinking binge which led to him being stripped of vice-captaincy. The 29-year-old was one of the six players fined for breach of team discipline following the six-wicket defeat by New Zealand.


Andrew Flintoff was stripped of vice-captaincy for being involved in a late-night binge after England’s defeat at the hands of New Zealand.

Andrew Flintoff was stripped of vice-captaincy for being involved in a late-night binge after England’s defeat at the hands of New Zealand
   

 

 

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Catching up
The underdogs who have done well in the World Cup ought to receive unstinting support from the cricketing fraternity in the long run, writes Vikramdeep Johal

The day after Bangladesh defeated India at Port of Spain, their media showered praise on the team but did not regard the victory as a miracle or a fluke. Tareq Mahmood, writing for the Prathom Alo newspaper, went to the extent of alleging that India did not consider it “financially viable” to play against Bangladesh on a regular basis.

The facts speak for themselves. India last toured Bangladesh in December, 2004. During the past two years or so, India have frequently played against two of their subcontinental neighbours. They visited Sri Lanka for two ODI tri-series, one of which was washed out, and travelled to Pakistan for a three-Test and five-match one-day series. Also, they hosted Pakistan for a bilateral series in early 2005. Surprisingly, India have never invited Bangladesh for a Test series.

Having not faced their group rivals for so long proved disastrous for India as they had virtually no idea of what the gutsy Bangladeshis had in store for them.

Bangladesh have often got a raw deal not only from India but also from the International Cricket Council. In 1998, they hosted the inaugural Champions Trophy, but ironically were not given a chance to play in the mega event. Incidentally, no multi-nation tournament has been hosted by the country since then.

The ICC, apparently very keen on the expansion of the game, should also be concerned about consolidation. It should focus particularly on the “middle class” of world cricket, comprised of Bangladesh, Kenya and Zimbabwe. An inspired Ireland, who are set to reach the Super Eight stage, can also be counted in this group. Only one of these teams is a Test-playing nation — Bangladesh. The latter had a disastrous World Cup campaign in 2003, when they lost to lowly Canada, but they have made amends this time and are eying a berth in the second round. Thanks to them, “minnows” has become a politically incorrect word in cricket parlance.

Zimbabwe, who were a force to reckon with in the 1980s and 1990s, no longer have Test status, owing to the weakening of the team in recent years due to political and racial unrest. Of late, they have been confined to playing bilateral ODI series against countries like Bangladesh and Kenya. Their dismal performance in the Champions Trophy last year has not helped their cause. A major revival is the need of the hour, but it’s unlikely that they can do it without the help of the ICC and the eight elite nations.

Kenya, semifinalists in the 2003 World Cup, beat Canada in their opening match last week but suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of New Zealand. They failed to show the pluck that was the hallmark of Bangladesh’s victory over India and Ireland’s historic triumph against Pakistan.

However, as inconsistency has been the bane of several major teams, for instance Pakistan, one can’t really blame the minors for being unpredictable.

Debutants Ireland have undoubtedly been the best among the fledgelings. Refusing to be overawed by the occasion, they have played way above their potential. The same cannot be said about fellow first-timers Bermuda, who have been the “whipping boys” of this event. Canada gave England a hard time before losing by 51 runs. Disappointingly, the Netherlands and Scotland, who have both played in the World Cup before, still have a long way to go before they are able to trouble the top guns.

Bangladesh & Co require regular exposure at the topmost level to improve their game and pit their skills with the world’s best teams. They should figure in tournaments besides the World Cup and the Champions Trophy.

Opinion is sharply divided about the inclusion of these teams in major events. Australian captain Ricky Ponting and former West Indian pacer Michael Holding haven’t minced their words in expressing his displeasure at the “mismatches”. On the other hand, the late Bob Woolmer believed that the game had to broaden its horizons to become more popular and shake off its elitist tag.

One way out is to have a World Cup qualifying tournament in which eight teams would fight it out for four slots. These qualifiers, along with the eight top sides according to ICC rankings, would then figure in the showpiece event. A 12-nation format can be more exciting and less long-drawn-out than the present one.

It might be the era of instant cricket, but it’s foolhardy to expect instant results. The rookies need time to establish a professional platform at home. If the ICC and the various national boards value cricket more than commerce, the campaign of expansion and consolidation might bring encouraging results sooner than later.

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Six mania

Sir Garfield Sobers joined Herschelle Gibbs, the newest member of cricket’s most exclusive 6-6-6-6-6-6 club, to present $1 million cheque to charity. South African Gibbs emulated the West Indian’s feat last week when he became the first man to hit six sixes in an over in an international match, striking the unfortunate Dutch bowler Daan van Bunge over the short Warner Park boundary for 36 runs.

Only three men have achieved the feat, with Sobers and Ravi Shastri getting their record in first-class cricket.

Gibbs’ accomplishment was recognised by whisky manufacturers Johnnie Walker, who wrote out a $1 million cheque which was handed over to a representative for Habitat for Humanity to build accommodation for the homeless in the Caribbean.

Sobers, one of Wisden’s five cricketers of the 20th century and recognised as the greatest all-rounder of all time, recalled the memorable day in 1968 when he struck Glamorgan’s Malcolm Nash out of the ground playing for Nottinghamshire in an English county match.

“I hope that Herschelle doesn’t suffer the way I have suffered over the years since way back in 1968,” he told a press conference.

“Everywhere people recognise me by saying that that is the man who hit six sixes. I have often wondered if that is the only thing that I have done in cricket.”

“But it’s really a great achievement to create history in a different area. My six sixes were in first-class cricket. Herschelle’s were in the World Cup.

“They were in a different category from mine. I don’t know when he decided to hit his but I know when I decided to hit mine and that wasn’t until the last ball. I didn’t believe a bowler would allow a batsman to hit six sixes.”

Sobers said he and Nash had attended a television interview together. “I said, ‘Malcolm, why are you smiling?’ and he said to me ‘you couldn’t have done that without me’.”

Gibbs paid tribute to Sobers as one of the true legends of the game. “It’s an honour and privilege to be sitting with him,” he said.

Asked when he decided to attack Van Bunge, Gibbs said South Africa had needed to increase their run rate.

Meanwhile, as if being hit for six sixes in an over was not depressing enough, Van Bunge is facing imminent unemployment after the World Cup. “I’m doing a bit of club coaching, but after the tournament I’ll be looking for a job,” he said.

Van Bunge, though, was not dispirited by the mauling he took. “You could moan and groan and cry about it,” he said. “But the only way to deal with it is to have a little laugh about it. It’s happened, and I can’t do anything about it. In fact, it was good hitting, it was quite nice.”

Van Bunge said Gibbs had offered his commiserations after the match. “He came to me afterwards, he was laughing and said I shouldn’t worry about it because the boundaries were so short,” Van Bunge said. “We had a laugh about it and that’s the way it should be.”

Van Bunge, a 26-year-old who weighs 100 kg and stands 1.88m, knows how Gibbs must feel. As a member of the MCC Young Cricketers’ XI, he hammered a 38-ball century against Surrey under-19 at Weybridge. “I’ve dished it out in the past, now I’ve been on the receiving end,” he said. — Reuters 

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The crossover men
Simon Evans

A West Indian opens the bowling for a Canadian side captained by an Australian, the best Dutch player comes from South Africa, and three Australians and a South African have enjoyed success with Ireland.

The improvement of the non-traditional cricket nations at this World Cup owes much to the input of imported players who qualify to represent their adopted countries.

Much like the colonial Englishmen who spread the game around the old British Empire, they bring expertise and experience to teams who are looking to break out of the barely noticed world of “associate cricket” into the big time.

Trent Johnston, the Ireland captain, who has lived there for 12 years, has been the most successful of the foreign legion so far.

His decisive captaincy has led his side to a thrilling tie against Zimbabwe, in which compatriot Jeremy Bray scored an unbeaten century, and then Johnston himself hit the winning six in the memorable victory against Pakistan.

The 32-year-old Johnston, who began his career at New South Wales with players such as Michael Slater and Brett Lee, has frequently reminded people that he and the team are out in the Caribbean to help popularise the game back home.

“We’ve come here to promote cricket in Ireland and we have shown there is good cricket in Ireland and given people an entertaining game to watch,” he said after the Zimbabwe tie.

While Johnston has become the highest profile case in the ICC competitions where developing cricket countries play in front of tiny crowds with little or no media coverage, there are plenty of others like him.

Italy’s cricket team failed to make it to the World Cup but their captain is Joe Scuderi, a former all-rounder from South Australia who qualified for the European side due to his Italian parents.

Scuderi has little time for those who mock the presence of non-native players in emerging sides and believes they are playing a vital role.

“Those who snigger only care about cricket in the major countries but it is about developing the game globally,” he told Reuters.

“These countries have searched around for players who may be eligible and it works well for both parties — they give each other a boost.

“For cricket to develop in these countries they need to have some quality in there for the others to aspire towards,” he said. There are a number of criteria which allow players to switch country. A passport can be gained through parentage or marriage while other players can qualify through residency.

But it is not entirely a philanthropic venture for players such as Johnston and Canada captain John Davison.

After all, the developing nations also offer those players a chance to play at a level they probably would not have reached with their countries of birth.

Sometimes the minor countries can also offer a second chance. Scotland’s Dougie Brown and Gavin Hamilton are at the World Cup despite having previously represented England.

Canada’s Anderson Cummins, played for his native West Indies at the World Cup 15 years ago and is back on the top stage at the age of 40.

Nor is it only the emerging nations who take advantage of qualification rules to strengthen their squads. After all, England feature South African Kevin Pietersen and Irishman Ed Joyce.

Dublin-born Joyce developed as a player in Ireland’s colours before switching to England but if the progress of Irish cricket continues such moves might be less likely in the future.

“Ed obviously didn’t see the opportunities there with Ireland that he can get with England. What we are working for is to create a situation where in the future players see those opportunities with Ireland,” said Ireland’s South African coach Adrian Birrell.

Italy’s Scuderi believes the contribution of his fellow-Australians Johnston, Bray and David Langford-Smith at this World Cup could go a long way to achieving just that.

“The fact that Ireland are doing well means the interest level will be much, much higher than it was 12 months ago and that will have a huge affect on the kids starting out in the game or thinking about getting involved.” — Reuters 


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Off-field shots

England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff’s performance off the field has been far more eye-catching than on it so far during the World Cup. A day after he was made to sit out of the match against Canada, an apologetic Flintoff promised there would never be a repeat of the late-night drinking binge which led to him being stripped of vice-captaincy.

The 29-year-old was one of the six players fined for breach of team discipline following the six-wicket defeat by New Zealand. The others were batsman Ian Bell, wicketkeeper Paul Nixon, fast bowlers Liam Plunkett, James Anderson and Jon Lewis. Some witnesses claimed the players were so drunk that they were kissing each other.

After leaving a nightclub close to the team’s St Lucia hotel, a boozed-up Flintoff was rescued from a sinking pedalo when he ventured into the sea after an eight-hour binge with team-mates.

According to the News of the World, the former skipper grabbed a pedalo at a beach around 4 am. He dragged it out to sea and was seen rocking it from side to side before it capsized. The hotel staff promptly moved into action and saved the England cricket’s poster boy, who was out for a duck against New Zealand earlier in the day.

This was not the first time Flintoff was involved in a drinking spree. After England’s Ashes victory against Australia in 2005, the team went on a marathon drinking session and turned up drunk for their official reception at Downing Street the following day.

Flintoff, then captain, was pictured red-eyed on the bus during the victory parade through London. He later denied claims he had peed in a flowerbed in No. 10’s garden.

What binge?

After the West Indies were thrashed by India in a warm-up match, rumours did the rounds that the Caribbean team had indulged in a binge the night before the game. When probed, captain Brian Lara claimed he had no knowledge about the party.

The controversy put immense pressure on the hosts to begin their World Cup campaign on a winning note. They delivered when it mattered, beating Pakistan in the opener. In their next match, they got past Zimbabwe to enter the Super Eight. — Agencies


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SPORTS MAIL

Anand should get his due

Kudos to Viswanathan Anand for securing his place as the FIDE world No. 1 after his win in the Morelia-Linares chess tournament. It is a well-deserved honour in his illustrious career.

Chess is one of the few individual sports in which India has produced world champions. However, Anand’s feat was not considered front-page material by newspapers. The electronic media was also preoccupied with the cricket World Cup. No sports official or minister bothered to congratulate him, let alone bestowing any honour upon him. Why should only cricketing heroes be feted? Champions in other sports should receive due recognition.

YP Makker, Malout

Unfair play

Apropos of the news item “Steelers have the last laugh” (The Tribune, March 6), the manhandling of umpire Satinder Sharma by Sher-e-Jalandhar players can’t be condoned. The Indian Hockey Federation wasted no time in reducing the Shers’ prize money (Rs 15 lakh) by 50 per cent. The players who manhandled Sharma are likely to be banned. But why doesn’t the IHF think of banning its President and Secretary, who have brought about the downfall of Indian hockey?

Tarsem S. Bumrah, Batala

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