So, we’re nearly 20 games into the World Cup now and a consistent pattern that is emerging (generally among the Full Member nations at least), is how one-sided the matches have been. The gist has been, win toss, go crazy in the last fifteen overs and defend a 300+ total due to suffocating bowling and sheer scoreboard pressure.
When a team bats first, these are some of the winning margins we have seen: 98 runs, 111 runs, 62 runs, 76 runs, 105 runs, 150 runs, 130 runs, 119 runs, 73 runs, 92 runs, you get the idea. None of these matches have been anything like a close contest. There have been some extraordinary individual batting performances – Chris Gayle’s 215 against Zimbabwe has been a particular highlight. This after he should have been out LBW first ball. This isn’t unusual for Gayle mind you, he has broken all sorts of batting records during his career, most notable his 175* in an IPL match. AB De Villiers joined in the fun in the game going on as I write, scoring 162* in 66 balls with some scarcely believable hitting. Scoring his third fifty in 12 balls and a partnership of 80 in 20 balls are just two of the statistical highlights which are just part of watching the bloke these days.
So, what’s behind it? I don’t buy into the theory that bats are to blame because of their size and sweet spot – I think the short boundaries and fielding restrictions are more likely to be the cause. Even the two new balls rule, which was designed to help the bowlers at the start of an innings, play a part. In the opening overs the ball may swing but it comes onto the bat a lot quicker and with only four fielders allowed in the circle in the first 10 overs there are plenty of gaps for the big hitters to exploit.
Having said that the skill of the batsman must be accounted for; we see shots from the T20 specialists in modern cricket which are hugely inventive and almost impossible to bowl at. The ‘Dilscoop’ is part of cricketing folklore these days, but the ramp shots and top hooks over the wicketkeeper are other strings to the batsman’s bow. In the final few overs every delivery is vulnerable. The yorker will go for six if it is slightly misjudged. Slower balls are met with tennis style smashes down the ground. It’s great to watch and I have huge admiration for the skill involved but it has made for some one-sided contests.
The associate sides meanwhile have bucked this trend. Many of their matches have been thrillers, and dare I say it, low-scoring ones at that. Ireland’s victory over UAE by 2 wickets was a classic, see-sawing encounter. Only some calm stroke play from Gary Wilson and an explosive innings from Kevin O’Brien saw them home against a spirited UAE.
The game of the tournament so far, in my opinion, was Afghanistan’s maiden World Cup win over Scotland by 1 wicket. The Afghans looked like they had made a mess of the chase when they fell to 132-8 in need of 211. But some sensible batting from Shenwari took them within touching distance. Then he smited 3 sixes from a Majid Haq over and was promptly out next ball. It was left to Shapoor Zadran to hit the winning boundary in the last over to break a plucky Scotland. Zadran’s celebration was a joy to watch, running half the field before sinking to his knees, eyes towards the heavens before being engulfed by his teammates. Such scenes of unbridled happiness are what the World Cup is, and should be all about. The Afghan story is an amazing one, considering they didn’t have a team until the early 2000’s. Shows just how good the World Cup can be.
Which makes it such a shame that the ICC are not interested in such stories. With every match that goes by their decision to reduce the number of teams at the next World Cup in 2019 to 10 becomes more idiotic. If you bypass the obvious arguments on global development of the sport, these players and supporters deserve better than to be shut out for no good reason. All of them have busted a gut to qualify (which is more than the Full Members have done) and to have that opportunity denied due to guff about ‘uncompetitive’ matches is both insulting and a nonsense argument.
I realise I am on my soapbox here but if you feel strongly about this issue and want to make your feelings known, do sign this petition. In all seriousness, the global future of the sport may depend on it.
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