The recently concluded Under 19 World Cup was full of surprises, major upsets and a piece of controversy that made headlines and reopened the somewhat tiresome ‘spirit of cricket’ debate which everyone seems to be obsessed with. More of that later.
As regular readers of this blog will know I bang the drum for the Associate cause more strongly than most, and have tried to expose the continued bizarre logic of the ICC in restricting opportunities for Associates, particularly their decision to reduce the 50 over World Cup to 10 teams from 2019. Nowhere has this decision looked more stupid than after some of the results in this tournament.
First of all, the format is something the senior World Cup should be moving towards. 4 teams of 4, top two qualify for the quarter finals. Clean and simple. This format does though bring with it the capacity for shocks, which is possibly why the Full Members aren’t so keen on it. The two associates who rocked the boat this time were Nepal and Namibia, who qualified for the quarters after stunning wins over New Zealand and South Africa respectively. Indeeed Nepal were unlucky to be edged out of a semi-final place in a narrow loss to Bangladesh.
And what is the reward for these brilliant performances? Not much. In the end Namibia, Nepal and Afghanistan finished in the top ten and only Namibia will definitely be back next time as the highest ranked Associate. The others will be forced to go through regional qualification despite finishing above some Full members. Indeed, Australia didn’t even travel to the tournament for security reasons and yet they walk straight into the next one. I can’t be the only one who can see the utter lunacy of this sort of decision making, and the deep unfairness of it. These young players will probably now never get a chance to play a World Cup again and for what? Just because of vested interests from those at the top. It’s very depressing and I get quite angry about it. When will the ICC wake up?
But rather than talk about that, people seemed more interested in the controversy of a Mankad in the West Indies against Zimbabwe quarter-final. Needing just one wicket, Keemo Paul mankaded the Zimbabwean tailender, who had his bat probably half an inch outside the crease. The bowler wanted to take the decision upstairs and it was upheld. Cue mass celebrations from the West Indians and lots of hand-wringing from everyone else. The majority of disdain for mankading seems to come from ex-players and those who really do still believe in the ‘Spirit of Cricket’ stuff, convenently forgetting incidents like Bodyline, not walking, over zealous LBW shouts and sledging, all of which could be argued as a way to unfairly gain an advantage in a match (not by me, I hasten to add). Point being is ever since WG Grace was a boy players and teams have been doing things to try and win which are verging on the unfair. The ‘Spirit of Cricket’ has never been in existence in my mind and people who continually harp on about it are denying history to try and make a point.
And when it all comes down to it there is nothing about mankading that is against the rules. If batsman want to back up too far then that’s fine, but they always run the risk of it happening. I have to admit that if it happened to me I’d be fuming, but in the end the batsman is out of his crease trying to steal a single and if the bowler takes advantage,then you have to grit your teeth and bear it. Those who disagree will have to take it up with the ICC if they want a rule change, but to call it ‘cheating’ is simply untrue.
The West Indies made it count by going on to win the competition after beating India in the final. And good for them, as cricket in that region is in an appalling state, mostly due to poor governance and continual disputes between players and board over contracts. Their team was aided by a couple of quick bowlers who could sned it down at over 140kph, which is very impressive for young men. A lot of the games had 9am starts which helped produce some quality swing bowling and a few low totals. It will be interesting to see if any of these players can progress to their island sides and from there, the full side. They could use some good news at the moment.