February 18, 2o11: The ICC, in their infinite wisdom and ever-mindful of their weighty responsibility to promote and shepherd the growth and development of the beautiful game worldwide, announce the reduction of teams participating at the World Cup from 14 to 10, effective from 2015. The tournament is too bloated, everyone says, so we’re only giving the people what they want. It’s not entertaining to watch the inevitable, interminable, first rounds of heavyweights annihilating the minnows. You know, if they want to play in the ODI World Cup they should just play better! There’s nothing to stop them, certainly nothing like a lack of money and cricketing infrastructure, or a shortage of match experience because they aren’t pencilled into the international calendar anywhere.
But, to show that we care, we’ll let them go to the World T20 tournament. Tests are the purest form of the game, so obviously these young aspiring teams cannot be allowed to play it! They’re young sides, just starting out, who need to develop their cricket, and what better way then by effectively restricting them to no cricket except the dumbest, hollowest, most technique-bereft format of the game?
February 22, 2011: England, holders of the Ashes, narrowly avoid a loss to the Netherlands, securing victory with 8 balls to spare.
March 02, 2011: Ireland, having given Bangladesh a brave fight days earlier, chase down England’s score of 327 in their final over, spurred on by the fastest century in World Cup history, scored off 50 balls by Kevin O’Brien.
Of course the Associates do not belong at the top level. They clearly are incapable of matching the levels of skill and discipline displayed by the top-level sides. Why, an Ireland or a Netherlands could only dream of being able to field like Pakistan, or bowl like England. They certainly cannot produce compelling cricket or close-fought matches. And, of course, their inability to match the big boys is entirely their own fault – it’s certainly nothing to do with a lack of support from the ICC, or from not having the chance to play competitive cricket on a regular basis, or from not playing higher-level teams, ever, except at the World Cup. Obviously. Their stagnation is entirely of their own making, and heaven forbid they continue to besmirch the gloss of the Ultimate Cricket Contest with their presence.