Rise and rise again

After beating almost all the minnows in the ICC’s backyard, the Irish are the big bullies.

Vineet Sharma

The only thing constant is the state of flux – an apt description especially when seen in the backdrop of a cricket field. The game has witnessed fortunes of teams changing over the years with England, Australia, West Indies, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka ruling the roost or biting the dust at one point or the other.

Having talent and honing talent to perfection is the subtle difference that champions over the eras have mastered and forgotten. What was once an unbeatable West Indies outfit now tethers at the bottom of the rankings with no hope for revival in the near future. What was once the minnow island nation of Sri Lanka is now a powerhouse that can give any team in the world a run for their money.

However, there have been those outfits as well that have time and again flattered only to deceive. The classic cases in point are the ‘favoured’ minnows Kenya and Bangladesh. In modern day cricket, with the top five teams more or less settled in that frame, the major action is happening between the middle and lower ranked nations as they level up their game to make a mark on the sport that has a global following today.

Bangladesh have not been able to shed the tag of a pee-wee league genius that often surprises but never comes across as serious challenge despite being given ample chances in the last decade. Of the sixty three Tests played by them, only three have turned into victories (one against Zimbabwe in 2004-05 and two against West Indies in 2009). Barring that, they have not justified their inclusion in the ICC list of Test playing nations by any definition.

In the ODI arena too, Bangladesh have fizzled, with a one odd wins against Australia (19 encounters) South Africa (14) and Pakistan (26), and two a piece against England (out of 15), India (from 25 matches) and Sri Lanka (29 outings) if only the big league teams are considered.

Kenya, another blue eyed child of the ICC has mustered two wins against India (out of 13) and one each against Sri Lanka (out of 6 played) and West Indies (6 encounters). Not being able to build a strong infrastructure for the sport, they have paid a heavy price and the fact that the big shots won’t entertain them in their Future Tours Programme (FTP) till there is some quality cricket to lure them.
While things have been bleak for the above said outfits, the same can’t be said for teams like Zimbabwe and Ireland.

Taking the case of Zimbabwe, a team that has been haunted with severe political and civil turmoil from decades and has not even an iota of cricketing infrastructure following their self-imposed suspension from Test cricket in 2006, we can see how they came back from the dead to revive the sport with their sheer grit.

They came back to play a Test series against Bangladesh after a long hiatus, branded as easy bait for the relatively ‘bigger’ Bangladesh outfit and they surprised all. They beat B’desh 3-2 in the ODI series and also capped a Test match win over their more famous counterparts in astounding style.

The wins speak oodles about the use of the latent talent by the small set-up and if they can continue in the same direction, they will have eyes watching them as they were on them during their two wins over both India and Pakistan in their first decade as a Test squad.

The latest ripple creators on the ODI circuit are the charged up Irish cricket team that has dazzled all, especially after the mammoth 329-run chase of a shocked England team in the 2011 ODI World Cup.

Ireland has also notched up a win against Pakistan to make themselves visible in the big league, as they send a clear warning sign to all the future opponents. The team is marked with players of sharp cricketing acumen and they have the big match temperament – an asset that takes years of honing up, ask South Africa.

After beating up almost all the minnows in the ICC’s backyard, the Irish are the big bullies of their league, waiting to bang at the gates of the more established names or as they say, “Rise and rise again, till minnows become giants.”

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