Category Archives: Associates cricket

Afghanistan’s Calypso Cricket must be shelved, to progress

‘Everyone loved us, we were the Calypso cricketers – we would do the entertaining and they would win’  –  Mohammed Nabi.  Well actually, the quote is by Deryck Murray, ex-West Indies cricketer, but it could very well be the former.

The ‘calypso cricketers’ of the world, are amicable, popular and fun to watch, but ultimately losers.

Historically attributed to the West Indies before their domination began – the terms represents a side which is given only tokenistic respect out of their trying. But everyone knows that if things got serious, the pressure can be turned on. 

Afghanistan is an emerging force of Associates cricket, but they have also has fought long and hard to be recognised in cricket terms, and not just for their legitimate tale of emerging out of the ashes of a war torn country. 

Afghanistan are also in quite an awkward transitionary period, between being the best of the rest, or the bottom of the elite pile.

This transition is being made during a turbulent time for Associate nations, whereby the World Cup is going to be reduced, and opportunities to play Test playing nations are few and far between. 

The reality for the Afghan side, is that since 2009, they’ve played 51 ODIs, and have won 25, but only 15 of those 51 ODIs have been against Test playing nations. Only three of those games have been wins (against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.)

Their opportunities for exposure are few and far between, and when they do arise, Afghanistan seemingly resort back to their happy go lucky attitude. 

Against non-Test playing nations, they have won 22 out of 36 games, which is well over half. But it is not going to really inform their progress beyond that stage. 

They are comfortable and cruising, until they face tougher opponents.

Since 01 January 2012, Afghanistan have hit a staggering 40 sixes in 12 matches against Test playing nations (3.3 a game), compared to Ireland’s 18 sixes, in 7 games (2.5 a game).

Ireland have hit three hundreds in that period to Afghanistan’s one, and Ireland average more per batsman. 

Ireland are cautious and concise. Afghanistan are kamikaze and gun hoe. 

Screenshot 2015-03-19 22.55.18 This dosn’t mean that Ireland don’t hit sixes of course.

They do. But instead of walking in to the room and shooting in the air at random, they chose their opportunities. 

Kevin O’Brien’s century against England in 2011 was the fastest in World Cup in history, off just 63 balls. But, it was mature and calculated.

It was not slogging the ball up in the air.

Against the U.A.E. Kevin O’Brien, (50 of 25 balls) and Gary Wilson (80 off 69 balls) similarly took Ireland from a position of mire, to victory through precision. It was brutal at times, but it worked. 

Gary Wilson said in post match interview: “I just poked it for one and he [Kevin O’Brien] hits it out of the ground. It was great” There is a plan.

Ireland now have three of the top 10 highest successful run chases in World Cup history: 328 against England in 2011, 307 against the Netherlands in 2011, 305 against the West Indies. And, for good measure, their successful 2015 World Cup chase against the U.A.E. is in the top 15. 

Ireland are intent on at least trying to win. They don’t panic and just try to blast the ball up in the air. That is why people love to watch them. 

Because Associates get such a minimal opportunity, there is no margin for error. As William Porterfield, Ireland’s captain, pointed out in another post match interview against the U.A.E:  “We need fixtures. We’re crying out for that.. We’ve talked about World Cups and they’re four years apart. We’ve played nine games against top-eight teams since 2011. Nine games in four years is nothing really. We need to be playing more.”

Afganistan without a doubt, use sport as a form of expression, but unfortunately there isn’t much room for emotive cricket, if you’re losing.

In a recent article on ESPN Cricinfo, Afghanistan’s Hamid Hassan was said to have came off the ground crying, during a division three match.  He spoke to the Documentary maker Leslie Knott, (Out of the Ashes) who asked him why. Hassan replied: “I have seen people die and I have not shed a tear. But there is something about cricket that gets me here [pointing to his heart]. Cricket is our chance.”

They clearly don’t fear a game of cricket. They certainly don’t fear getting out or getting hit, given the World Cup is scheduled to be reduced to 10 teams, perhaps they do have something to fear. 

Afghanistan’s fearless emotive cricket is certainly exciting to watch but, it is also potentially blinding them to what they really need.

What do they need?

It is somewhat indefinable. How can one go about methodising injecting patience and consistency? Ultimately it is a team that is poorly funded and has increasingly jeopardised opportunities facing quality opposition? It’s not an easy task. Unlike Ireland’s top order, who all have the option of County cricket, which they take up, Afghanistan don’t. 

Afghanistan needs opportunities to build their abilities domestically to play more games Internationally.

Most importantly however, batsmen need to foster a greater sense of collective responsibility to the team. Calypso cricket will never bring them much success beyond being admirable losers. 

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On this day: Canada bowled out for 36 in World Cup horror show

On this day in 2003, lowly Canada came up against the might of Murali and co, and were bowled out for 36.

At the time, being bowled out for 36 was the lowest ODI score.

The innings lasted 18 overs, with five ducks, and Sri Lanka knocked off the total in five overs.

Here is the card (if you’re not too scared to peak).

Screenshot 2015-02-17 23.10.28

If the Associates won’t come to Bangladesh, then Bangladesh must go to the Associates

Bangladesh’s abysmal Test record is well documented, and widely cited as a legitimate reason for revocation of their Test status.

The lure of a potential influx of new playing nations may help Bangladesh salvage their Test status with better suited opposition, but they must weigh their interest in maintaining their Test status now, against their integrity of temporarily giving it up for long term gains.

Their stagnant progress and ineptitude with bat and ball has been consistent, due to a mixture of their own failings, but of course also due to the sheer enormity of the gap between them, and ‘the rest’. In statistical terms, they have nearly always been on the losing or drawing side in Test cricket.

Of course, someone usually has to lose a contest, but the cold hard fact is that since their inaugural Test in 2002, Bangladesh have been victorious in four Tests out of 84. When considering that out of the four wins, two were against a desecrated West Indies second string XI, and two were against a weak Zimbabwe side, the relative importance of those four wins, are relatively minor.

Yet In ODI cricket, Bangladesh have had more success, and really, ideally, should be building on this, instead of being continuously trounced in whites.

They have won 80 out of 276 ODIs, and have a stronger sense of how to win in the format. A key factor in this, is the fact that they have played against 17 sides in total in limited overs cricket, compared to the 10 purely Test playing nations, and this does not even include sides such as Afghanistan or Nepal, which are strong emerging nations.

Out of the 80 ODIs that Bangladesh have won, the vast majority of victories have been against the lower ranked Test sides or non Test playing associate and affiliate nations. For example, against Zimbabwe, 31 out of 59 ODIs have been won, in addition to 15 victories against the West Indies and New Zealand.

Against non Test playing nations, there have been 22 victories which leaves only 12 victories against the top six Test playing nations, in ODI cricket.

It could not be more plain and simple. They are able to compete against lower ranked sides, because they are of a similar skill level.

They have never had a meaningful victory in a Test match, but they have a chance in coloured kits.

It must be devastating and uninspiring for young Bangladeshi fans and potential stars of the future, to see your side so paralysed with losses.

It’s time to do something about this.

The ICC, and the Bangladeshi Cricket Board must now be seriously consider the position. Bangladesh are stuck in a perpetual and static position of losing, with the faint hope of having more competitive opposition in the near future.

But, they need to decide whether they wait for others to reach their standard, or they move to a different position. It might be too long to wait for Test nations to created, so they may have to go towards the prize, by making themselves a ODI and T20-I only side.

It may be a bitter pill, but it is possibly a backward step, with prospects of returning to Test cricket in the near future, in a one step back two steps forward approach.

They not only need to play greater amounts of competitive and meaningful cricket, but through doing this, they will produce a more positive and realistic approach. Ambition will be given context, and hopefully a legacy can start to be built up more strongly.

Through playing a more fitting opposition in a more hospitable format, that will be inducive to a more positive outlook.

When Sri Lanka won the World Cup in 1996, or when India won the World cup in 1983, they ignited a long term relationship between not ‘just’ their country, their fans and cricket, but a love of One Day cricket in particular. They were the biggest upsets in limited overs cricket, and it quickly became apparent that ODI cricket was no longer a drab footnote on Test cricket’s behind, but it was a platform where a team could have an impact.

India has millions of adoring cricket fans that flock to ODI matches, and undoubtably, the 150 Million Bangladeshi fans would do the same, if there was greater likelihood of them winning.

Being continuously thrashed makes a side numb with pain, almost blinding as to why. They need to play more competitive cricket, and now. Cricket they can win, and cricket in which there is something to play for.

It would seam the best long term option, with the view of playing Test cricket again in the future, is for them go to their new opposition, instead of waiting for them.

They need a break from Tests, and to reassess their own skill levels against less proficient opposition.

Point-to-prove XI for 2014

Reflection of the previous year often aids with informing the expectations of the season to come. As we recover from a year of retirements and the changing the guard, we can look into a crystal ball, and see who will be looking to have a more productive 2014. Not all in this list have had a disappointing 2013, but, all will be looking to have a purposeful year ahead, and really prove something.

*2013 statistics are amalgamated from all formats of International cricket.

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1. Jesse Ryder [New Zealand] – 2013:

Batting: 1 innings – 0 runs. Average 0 |

Jesse Ryder is a special talent, but certainly not a fulfilled one. His staggered career has developed at an uneven rate, which has given rise to the fact that at 29 years old, he has played just 18 Test matches, and only 41 ODIs. He’s better than that, but it needs consistency, and discipline on and off the field. Combining the two could allow Ryder to explode back onto the scene, which may be important with T20 contracts up for grabs. A century on the first day of 2014 is a good sign, but with Ryder, it is never far away from something unexpected.

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2. Murali Vijay [India] – 2013:

Batting: 14 innings – 704 runs – Average – 48.82 | Bowling: Overs 1 – Wickets: 0 – Average: 0

After having made his debut in 2008, Vijay’s chance for Test cricket has been stifled by the likes of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag at the top. They have since been put to one side, and Vijay’s chance has finally emerged. 647 Test runs at an average of 46.76 in 2013 was a good grounded response to continued selection. But, with the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara for company in the batting order, he must stay relevant, and not be a passenger. In order to not be buried in the drama of Indian cricket, and the high octane performances of others, he must push the boundaries, and really build a reputation.

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3. Azhar Ali [Pakistan] – 2013:

Batting: 15 innings – 272 runs – Average: 31.77 | Bowling: Overs: 7 – Wickets: 0 – Average: 0

Pakistan are about to go through a turbulent period, with Misbah Ul Haq at the ripe age of 39, and Younis Khan at 36, spare parts are desperately needed. Azhar Ali was steady for a number of years for Pakistan at number three, but severely fell away in 2013, with just two fifties, and averaging under 20 in Tests. 270 runs in 14 Test innings is not good enough, when in the previous year, he scored more than double that in less matches. There is lots to work on, and lots to like about Ali, but he really must show he has a future for Pakistan, post Misbah and Younis, by seizing number three by the horns, and not letting go. Pakistan cricket is a roller coaster ride sometimes, and a solid, steady number three is what is needed. Step up Azhar.

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4. Joe Root [England] – 2013:

Batting: 48 innings – 1579 runs – average: 38.51 | Bowling: Overs: 118.0 – Wickets: 8 – Average: 69. 87

The golden boy of English cricket is finding out the hard way that top level cricket is very difficult. Averaging 34.48 in Tests last year, he has been moved up and down the order perpetually, not being allowed to settle. He has been worked over by Australia’s quicks, exposed horribly, and although having played the short ball well, he has not been the defensive rock that England had hoped for at the top of the order. Whereas some will attribute this to him being unsettled due to constant change, it must also be recognised that he has not made any of the positions his own. He is only young of course, but the sooner he consolidates a position, the better, and that is the task for the year in all formats.

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5. JP Duminy [South Africa] – 2013:

Batting: 32 innings – 948 runs – average 35.11 | Bowling: Overs: 177.4 – Wickets: 20 – Average: 36.90

The left hander has gained a reputation as a One Day specialist, which is something he will be keen to repute. He has only played 21 Tests in his career, and has always been placed in the lower middle order, coming in to bat after a flurry of world class batsmen such as Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla and AB De Villiers. Nobody doubts his One Day credentials, but his First Class average of nearly 50, simply does not translate in Test cricket, where he averages a meager 32.88. He will be looking to assert himself, and prove he is not just a One Day specialist.

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6. Angelo Mathews [Sri Lanka] – 2013:

Batting: 34 innings – 935 runs – average: 34.62 | Bowling: Overs: 200.4- Wickets: 23- Average: 40.34

As a player, and as a captain, Angelo Mathews has struggled to form a cohesive Test side. He played in 28 limited overs games, whilst having only three full Tests in 2013, which outlines the difficulty of long term planning. A general depression in form in Tests, has been contrasted by a strong-ish year in coloured kits. In Tests, scoring under a hundred runs in the year, and taking not a single wicket showed his ineptitude, yet in ODIs, his 585 runs and 19 wickets helped build his character as a leader. 2014 needs to be the year in which the Sri Lankan captain strengthens his place as the leader, and transfers limited overs contributions to Tests, because if he doesn’t Sri Lanka will be far too heavily reliant on the old guard.

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7. Quinton De Kock [South Africa] – 2013:

Batting: 23 innings – 928 runs – average: 42.18 | Wicketkeeping: Catches: 33 Stumpings: 4

With the retirement of Jacques Kallis, a position in the batting order has opened up. Quinton De Kock has had a fantastic year in limited overs cricket for South Africa, the only format he was afforded selection with 928 runs, including four centuries. He is the obvious player to come into the Test side, and as a wicketkeeper, he has an added string to his bow. Some will say at 21 he is too young to fill Kallis’s enormous hole, but  someone has to, and in spite of his inexperience, De Kock has shown considerable ticker in his performances so far.

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8. Darren Sammy [The West Indies] – 2013:

Batting: 35 innings – 709 runs – average 26.25 | Bowling: Overs: 260.1 – Wickets: 21 – Average: 50.04 | Fielding: Catches: 30

The West Indies beleaguered captain is chronically unable to lead from the front, and must show some more substance. His toothless bowling produced eight Test wickets in nine innings in 2013, and his Test batting average of just 21 is not exactly electric dynamite. He is economical and steady, but he is clearly picked as a and captain in Tests. After having been relinquished of the role in 50 over cricket, it’s surely only a matter of time before a new captain of any degree of competence emerges, which could render Sammy obsolete. He continues to be a solid limited overs performers, but especially for Test cricket, he needs to start showing his worth. 2014 must be the year of Sammy, where he shows his value to the team not just as a captain.

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9. Ravichandran Ashwin [India] – 2013:

Batting: 24 innings – 359 runs – average: 17.95 | Bowling: Overs: 617.1 – Wickets: 81 – Average: 28.60

Disposed of for the second Test in South Africa, India’s spinner seems to be inept outside of the sub continent. 95 of his 104 Test wickets have been in Asia, which does not take away from his achievements, but it suggest he is a one dimensional and inexperienced performer outside of India. When his side plays England in five Tests in 2014, he will be desperate to be in that side ahead of Pragyan Ojha, the genuine spinner, or Ravi Jadeja, the genuine allrounder. He must break out of his Sub-continental mould, and really secure his spot in the side by developing a stock ball, and learning to use variations more intelligently. Until he does that, he will never have success where there is less spin to be had.

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10. Steven Finn [England] – 2013:

Batting: 15 innings – 142 runs – average: 10.92 | Bowling: Overs: 324.5 – Wickets: 44 – Average: 32.63

In 2011, Steven Finn became England’s youngest bowler to 50 wickets, at the age 22 years and 63 days. The tall seamer was set to be ‘the next big thing’, but failed. Struggling with control, even when he got wickets, they were expensive, and he has spluttered and coughed his way through his career since being dropped in 2011. 2014 simply must be the year for Finn to settle his action, and lead. Whatever format, ‘If’ he has a serious future, and ‘If’ he wants to carry the legacy on that was laid out in 2011, this year has got to be the turning point. He is clearly a good bowler, and has performed spectacularly well especially in limited overs cricket, but without consistency, he will always simply be remembered as the bowler that occasionally performed well. Getting a consistent reliable action is his task for the year. If he does, success will come his way.

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11. Ishant Sharma [India] –

Batting: 17 innings – 34 runs – average: 3.77 | Bowling: Overs: 367.2 – Wickets: 47 – Average: 34.53

How do you solve a problem like Ishant Sharma? A tall, gangly fast bowler, that is robotic. His bowling lacks the emotion that a fast bowler should have, sometimes more stiff and unimaginative than a bowling machine. 12 Test wickets at an average of 48.16 in 2013 has reinforced his dire 2012 performance which produced just seven Test wickets at an average of 75.57. He is only 25 years old, despite having been around since 2008; but time is running out regardless of his age. Only for so long can India continuously pick this uninspiring and ineffective bag of unfulfilled potential. 2014 might be Sharma’s last chance to prove everyone wrong before he is dumped on the scrapheap once and for all.

Other contenders: Steve Smith, Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Lyon.