Posted by: tootingtrumpet | October 23, 2011

The Final Over of the Week in World Cricket October 23 2011

Ball One –  On debut in the First ODI of the series, Rob Nichol scored an unbeaten ton to get New Zealand up to Zimbabwe’s 231, but he was eclipsed by Zim’s captain, Brendan Taylor, who has two tons in the first two ODIs, both unbeaten. Like Bangladesh, Zimbabwe will always produce players more than capable of holding their own in international cricket – whether they will ever produce enough of them at once to forge teams capable of holding their own in world cricket is no more settled now than a decade ago.

Ball Two – The aftermath of the World Cup is the time for ODI debuts and another young man made his mark this week. Pat Cummins is 18, looks like Mitchell Johnson and bowls about his pace too, but with a repeating action that reminds me of Chris Tremlett’s. He hits the seam, and the splice, hard. Hashim Amla showed no respect for Cummins’ growing hype hitting the youngster’s first ball in ODI cricket over the offside boundary for six, following that by belting his fourth ball to the boundary too. Cummins then showed what he was made of by getting rid of Kallis and Duminy in his second over, both beaten for pace. He dropped a sitter later, but Australia have a player, and a win.

Ball Three – In the Third ODI between West Indies and Bangladesh at Chittagong, West Indies had Keiron Pollard at Five, Darren Sammy at Six and Denesh Ramdin at Seven – all arguably two slots higher than they should be. Add to that two openers with just 8 appearances between them, and it looked a tough assignment for Sammy’s men when they were asked to bat. No excuse for a score of 61 though. Cricket needs the West Indies – it’s not so big a sport that it can stand by while one of its traditional powers is so inconsistent for so long.

Lydia Greenway - century maker and ECB Women's Cricketer of the Year

Ball Four – While England’s men search for a winning formula for ODI cricket played away from home comforts, England’s women continued their good form with a comprehensive win vs South Africa. The victory was built on undefeated tons from Lydia Greenway and Arran Brindle who scored 232 runs between them at better than a run a ball. With a score like that behind them, England will back themselves to bowl and, especially, field well enough to beat any side, and they were too good for South Africa, who were in the match until the last fifteen overs when the squeeze proved too much. Two more ODIs left in that series.

Ball Five – Rhinos vs Eagles sounds like a good match-up in the animal kingdom, and it proved a good match-up in cricket too, as the draw proved once more that it’s not always dull. With Yorkshire’s Gary Ballance again impressing with the bat, his Rhinos team probably felt they were a bit short in leaving the Eagles 158 to get in what proved to be 27 overs. But fourth innings chases are not T20 slogfests and the Eagles lost four wickets (three run out) as they tried to score the ten runs they needed off the last ten balls. Number 11, Tatenda Manatsa, couldn’t hit the winning boundary off the last ball, but preserved his wicket for the draw. 350 overs effort boiled down to the last ball – it’s a grand game this.

Ball Six – Sri Lanka draw in Abu Dhabi with Pakistan. A double century for Kumar Sangakkara is no great surprise, but Taufeeq Umar has not always suggested he had the potential for scores nearer 250 than 200. There were also 64 maidens over the five days play. England are due there in the new year – Alastair Cook, and Jonathan Trott, will have taken note.


  1. “capable of holding their own in world cricket”… against whom? Last I checked there are 105 nations playing cricket. Bangladesh and Zimbabwe “hold their own” against all but 5 or 6 of them. It really is way past time that we lost the myth that there is some sort of development cycle for teams, from weak to “test standard”, whatever that means. Teams with poor resources will stay weak, teams with strong resources (and Bangladesh have the population, if not the finances) will remain strong. Some teams will improve their playing base over decades; a few will see it weaken. Occasionally strong teams will lack quality players, occasionally weak teams will acquire superstars who lift them towards the top. It is way way past the time that cricket’s structure and competitions reflected that reality: a meritocracy, just like every other sport.

  2. Hi Russ.

    Good points, deserving of a considered response which I hope to find time to write soon

  3. I’d suggest that cricket has a problem with being a strict meritocracy. Five day cricket, and even fifty over cricket, is simply too long to make it interesting or beneficial to have mismatches. All out 70 and 71-1 or 123, 570-3dec, 134 is doing nobody any good. I think the structure is about right now, with 10 Test playing nations, more in ODIs and more still in T20. I’d have a 16 team World Cup and World T20 though.

    If, and only if, another nation showed it had the underlying structure to sustain a playing base from which to select Test players, would I say that they could join the club. China next probably.

  4. Gary, I think you are looking at this the wrong way. If your starting point is: “there is a thing called test status, predominately playing bilateral series”, then you’ll invariably end up with what we have now. And if the glut of articles being written about the dearth of context and interest in cricket are any indication, what we have now is not working!

    Having test status is not a meritocracy, it is not necessarily a barrier to a meritocratic system, but face facts. Rugby has no “test status”, all internationals are tests, though it has tier 1 nations. However, if they fail to make the top-12 in the world cup, then they qualify next time around. That is a meritocracy: their place depends entirely on performance. To look at infrastructure and playing base is to second-guess whether a team can compete. Competitions tell you if a team can compete, if in a decade’s time a team is rubbish then they can play against other rubbish sides. A proper meritocracy would allow any team to play against the best, if they prove themselves good enough.

    The last point is important, I am definitely not for large numbers of mismatches. If anything, fewer would be better. However, a match-up is always relative. Bangladesh are mismatched against England (who isn’t right now?) but not New Zealand, nor Ireland, nor Scotland, but probably PNG, and definitely Germany. The point I made above is that you can’t guarantee any nation will sustain a certain level, nor that any nation won’t, however briefly, attain a certain level. Take football, wil Austria ever again reach the heights of the 1930s, Hungary the 1950s, or Montenegro repeat their current run (and let’s be honest, they are still no match for Spain or Germany)? Without a meritocratic pathway to success a sport has no romance, nothing to aspire to. Cricket has no romance.

    If Bangladesh and Zimbabwe played the teams below them they’d have far superior, even respectable records. By any normal measure, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are pretty good: 9th/10th in sport played by over 100 nations. But more importantly, if their standard slipped, it wouldn’t matter, because another team could rise up to replace them. But as long was we maintain this ridiculous idea that all test teams are created equal and the rest are unworthy, we’ll continue to have both more mismatches and artificially weak teams.

    And I know this is difficult for you to comprehend, because you are English, and therefore have never supported a team for whom qualification for a major tournament is a genuine achievement worth celebrating, instead of an opportunity for collective blood-letting, but there really ought to be a lot more to cricket than the top half dozen sides playing an endless merry-go-round of pointless fixtures. It is possible to design a meritocratic tournament with relatively few mismatches. My (extended) discussion of this is in manifesto, or in graphical form. I’d value your opinion on it.

    Finally, it is also about respect. The ICC actually have a tournament which, to be fair, actually is broadly meritocratic, if too small at 12 teams. Thus there have been 450 T20 internationals played since the last world T20, of which only 90 involve the test or ODI nations and are therefore “official”. Yet, whereas the IRB include every single nation in their ratings, no matter how lowly, the ICC produces a T20 ratings that includes only the official games, excluding hundreds of ICC sanctioned tournament games. I don’t expect the associates to challenge the top test nations soon, perhaps even ever, but I want competitions with interesting narratives, and I want to watch the best players, regardless of origin. And cricket doesn’t offer either.

    • Russ, I jumped in without reading your spiel and you’ve been much more thorough and properly analysed than me.

  5. Toots, the use of the word ‘club’ in your reply to Russ says it all, even if you meant it jokingly. That’s what the test structure looks like it is. And it’s a conservative and unsustainable club. While I love test cricket, it isn’t a healthy or sensible format for a proper international sport but then I think everyone actually knows that. It’s a whacky offshoot from the 19th century that has somehow persisted like some sort of colonial relic.

    It’s not the ‘original’ of the sport either but I think everyone knows that too.

  6. No idea if he’ll be a good selector, but his time as coach is the reason I’m a Bear’s fan. Looking forward to see what Big John can bring to the table.

    • I’m hoping he won’t show the scorn for the state comp that most of our recent team of selectors appear to think is necessary. I’d be very disappointed if he did, being probably WA’s greatest state skipper.

  7. Russ – I need to read your piece to comment more comprehensively – and I shall – but for now, I am happy to agree with much of what you write with, as you might expect, one caveat. For Test cricket to be be as open as you suggest (and not the “club” that Lolly, not without reason, scorns) how are these emerging nations going to sustain a programme of three Test series in order for us to find out who is the best? Test matches take five days each and series at least a month, so how will non-professionals be able to participate? Football and rugby (in fact most other team sports) are simply a higher level of the recreational game – teams like Montenegro can havae a good run at qualifying for tournaments with a mix of local semi-pros and foreign based full-timers, but how could (say) Scotland play three three Test series against Zim, Ireland and Holland every year?

    Let’s have a totally open T20 structure, a semi-open ODI competition with 16 teams in the World Cup and Test Cricket largely as it is – the rumours of its death have been exaggerated for 134 years after all.

    • A really good question. One with several answers.

      Professional cricket is a relatively new thing. Test sides (apart from England) maintained regular test programs before the players were professional – which really dates from the Packer era. Professional first-class cricket in Australia dates only from the early 90s, when money, mostly from the Sky and the sub-continent became available. It was an era of supportive employers and premature retirement, but it is not impossible.

      To the extent it is a problem, the 2nd division of regional championships, and 3rd division globally could be played as single test series, akin to the relatively successful I-Cup competition. Five tests per year plus some one-day competitions is roughly equivalent to what associates play now.

      On the monetary side, associate cricket is already professionalising. Scotland and Ireland already have a mix of overseas (county) professionals, and semi-pro contracted players through ICC funds. In poorer nations, the national team is already professional: Afghanistan and Kenya for example. Their problem is funding, which I didn’t talk about in any depth, but can outline here.

      Outside the big-3, full members have no ability fund their cricket; they do because full membership confers certain benefits. Approx. $30-40m (all figures USD) from ICC tournament distributions, another $30-40m from overseas TV rights when India and England tour (tours guaranteed under the FTP), another $20m in sponsorship, a lot of which is based on exposure gained from playing major tours. If Scotland was given New Zealand’s schedule and status, they’d be in roughly the same position financially that NZ is. Such is cricket’s global financial structure.

      If you compare schedules, the test championship I propose replaces low-interest small-team series in the big-3 schedules, and big-3 series in the small nations. The total amount of money available ought to be higher, as the cricket is generally more even, more contextual, and regionally based which draws on natural rivalries. But it would need to fund the small test nations to the same level as now, and at least two extra associates’ national teams at a professional level. Estimating, I don’t think it is a problem, though the ECB and BCCI would need convincing that sharing TV revenue is essential. That is what scuppered the plan Australia put forward.

      Finally, T20 is the elephant in the room. One of the key ideas I proposed is to separate the T20 domestic season and international/first-class seasons. If this doesn’t happen, financially weak teams (the West Indies are the obvious example) will be competing with domestic leagues to play their own players. That is not a battle they can win, there is no way to structure cricket’s finances so they can compete. Separated, cricket becomes closer to football, where players are professionals domestically, and national associations don’t match the market value of their players when they play.

      Test cricket’s future, ultimately, rests on its status with players. My fear for it is that as the base of players grows outside test nations (and it is, rapidly), that excluding them effectively drives them towards the other forms. Players are status driven, the status achieved by being paid what they think they are worth, and the status of being compared to their peers and forbears. If T20 has the highest paydays, biggest world championship, and prominent test series are exclusive to a few major nations (three, actually), then real cricket will go the way of “Real tennis”, another sport that devoted itself to exclusivity over growth.

      • Thanks for your considered response Russ. I need to do a little research and thinking and get back to you. But I can tell you now that five one-off Tests per year is too vulnerable to the vagaries of weather and form to determine the best.

        • Thanks, and no rush. I agree, completely. It is one of the reasons Ireland missed the I-Cup final last season. But as you noted above, money and time is tight in the lower rungs. Better a fickle opportunity than none.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: