Before the world cup I talked about how much I like that this is still cricket’s ultimate tournament, and I love that at the end of this we’ll know who is the best ODI team in world cricket. Probably.
The other thing I love is the minnows. And because of typical ICC stupidity, they’ll be going soon.
In 07 Van Bunge and Ireland were the stories. In the 03 t my favourite memories are from John Davison’s batting, Kenya’s form and Aasif Karim’s bowling. In 99 I loved Neil Johnson. And anyone who has seen The Chuck Fleet-Smith’s will know how much I love Sultan Zarawani from 96.
In this tournament we’ve had minnow highlights coming thick and fast.
Collins Obuya’s 98* was heartbreaking. What a story though, the man who was one to watch in 03 with his leggies, gets the yips with his leggies and re-brands himself as a dogged barely functioning batsmen who somehow finds 98 runs against Australia before running out of time for making a hundred. Here is a man who has done whatever he came to perform for his country in this world cup.
Peter Borren is the most violent looking cricketer I’ve ever seen. If Crank 4 needs a Dutch Kiwi Villain I could see him in a knife fight with Jason Statham. Borren is the sort of barely functioning all rounder that minnows rely on. His medium pace makes you want to face it, and when he bats he seems to try and cut every ball. Throw in his captaincy, scary eyes and forehead, and you have a nugget of minnow gold that his team would be scared to miss field in front of.
Ryan Ten Doeschate smashed England around so bad that people thought he’d scared them straight. The South African Essex man with the nickname about his cock has smashed a few balls before this world cup, and he even had a cameo in Stuart Broad’s comedy romp in the World T20, but to see him fully take down England for a few hours was as good a structured innings I’ve seen by a minnow batsmen since Neil Johnson’s hundred against Australia. Plus it’s fun to call him Ryan Ten Inches.
Rizwan Cheema has barely scored this world cup, and yet, he’s built up a cult following by batting like an arsonist. Before this world cup the only taste of The Cheema (as he should be called) was on youtube. Now I’ve seen him open the batting, slog in the middle order, bowl his crafty rubbish medium pace and try and hit kiwi batsmen with beamers. He’s like every club cricket slogger you’ve ever seen, but he does it once or twice to international bowlers before getting bowled with his eyes shut.
Nehemiah Odhiambo has taken five wickets in the world cup, and his econmy rate is far from Ray Pricean. What he does have is a smile. When he beats a batsman, he smiles so much that no matter how much Shane Warne or Mitchell Johnson whiten their teeth, they’ll never smile like he does. He is impossible not to like, if he cheated on you with your girlfriend, you’d want to beat him up, but his smile and infectious attitude would make you take him out for a beer and ask him about his bowling action.
Then there is Kevin O’Brien. I was under the opinion that O’Brien was a cult figure before this world cup. He’s a chubby slogger with ginger hair, surely there is already an Indie band called the K’OB experience after a few of his hits in the 09 World T20. Apparently not, and most people only seemed to notice this beast when he beat England on his own. It was one of the best world cup innings in the entire history of the tournament, and it was done by a guy who was hyperventilating after 30 balls from a country that’s only been in a few tournaments.
Now, while I suspect I’m in the minority, even those who think that minnows are a waste of time would find it hard to argue that these guys have added to the tournament.
If the tournament is too long, shorten it, play two games a day during the early part of the tournament, don’t allow minnows to play from Friday to Sunday and it’s all good.
With 10 teams, we’re giving ourselves less chance for stories like Aasif Karim, Kevin O’Brien and Collins Obuya to come through. I can’t see how that will improve the cricket world in any way, or make the world cup a more interesting tournament. I’ve seen New Zealand play Pakistan a lot, I don’t see much Netherlands Vs West Indies.
And perhaps the most important thing to remember is that Sri Lanka went from minnows to winners in 13 years.
The cricket world needs a touch of minnow, and if looking at Balaji Rao’s bulge doesn’t convince you of that, nothing will.