|Has over-kill of cricket resulted in one-sided contests?
There is a common thread running through these three series. All contests are so hopelessly one-sided. The matches end by an innings win to one side or they are poised to do so. For instance, in Chennai, opening batsman and Indias new batting sensation, Virender Sehwag, who blasted a quick-fire 61 in 65 balls against the West Indies and helped the hosts to take a lead of 23 runs with 5 wickets in hand at the end of Day 2, is confidently predicting an innings win even from this not-so-solid foundation: "We need another 100-150 runs to be able to try and inflict another innings win. We should be able to force a result on the fourth day itself." Now, that is confidence bordering on cockiness, yet this is based on their experience after the previous Test which they won by an innings.
Whats cooking in Pakistani cricket?
Next let us take the Australia/Pakistan series, now shifted to Sharjah. What a disaster! Being dismissed for 53 & 59 at the P. Sara Stadium in Colombo during the first Test, the Pakistanis went under by an innings as well in the second Test at Sharjah. Australians are now odds-on favourites to wrap the series 3-0 with another innings win in the final Test, now since Pakistan will be further weakened without the services of their match-winning paceman Shoaib Akhtar who is on the injured list. Funny thing is, while the Pakistanis were getting a battering from the Australians, some of their star players including Wasim Akram, Shahid Afridi et al, were in England playing some childish indoor cricket a sophisticated version of the type of cricket kids play with anything for a ball in a restricted space, the only difference being there isnt any money for the kids! for a so-called Rest of the World XI vs The Brits. Of course, after the debacle some of the senior officials of the Pakistan Cricket Board tendered their resignations but were persuaded to remain. Equipped with, what most percipient observers of the game feel, as the most talented team in the international cricket world, it is a great pity that Pakistan cannot turn in consistent performances. Current Skipper Waqar Younis must be having plenty on his plate to worry about. There is always something fishy? cooking in Pakistani cricket. A great pity.
The pathetic record of Bangladesh
In South Africa, at Buffalo Park, history was made at the end of Day 1 itself as Bangladeshi bowlers were hammered to the tune of 369/2 in the allotted 90 overs with opening batsman Smith (200) and Gary Kirsten (113) making three-figure scores. Left-handed Gary Kirsten thus became the first player to have scored hundreds against all nine Test playing countries and entered the history books. That is an unenviable record indeed. Kirsten is a batsman who plays the percentage game. In other words, he has put a heavy price on his wicket, and it is a question of the bowlers having to prise him out because he will not give it away easily. Well done, Kirsten! So, at the end of Day 1 itself one record has been established. I shudder to think how many more records will go by the board as the series progresses. Naturally, cricket is being devalued. Look at Bangladeshs current record in international cricket. They have lost 12 of the 13 Tests played so far, the weather coming to their rescue in the game they saved. Of the 58 one-day Internationals, they have lost 55. The matches they won were against Kenya, Scotland and, believe it or not, Pakistan, and it was during the 1999 World Cup. A result that caused many questions, and eyebrows, especially of Sir Paul Condons Anti-Corruption Unit, to be raised!
Spreading the game at what cost?
All of this begs the question that has been raised time and time again in recent times. Was the I.C.C. right in granting Full Member status to Bangladesh or was it political expediency? The short answer, based on their performances so far, is obviously a resounding NO to the first part of the question, and possibly an Aye to the second part. Especially when one recalls the decade long struggle a far more skilled Sri Lankan side had in order to get to the top. The defence of the I.C.C. would be that they are trying to spread the game. If that be the case, what about next targeting the U.S.A and (say) Malaysia and give them Full Member status as well? No, no, spread the game by all means but not at the cost of devaluing the game. Maybe, from reports reaching here, Bangladesh would attain a standard worthy of their elevation within the next 5-7 years since their youngsters according to a local coach who is handling their talented youngsters told me the other day are full of promise. Which also goes to prove that granting Full Member status at this point in time to Bangladesh was premature, and the long-term answer too is that they should, at best, have been given only one-day International status for starters. However now that the die is cast, Bangladesh are forced to carry their cross and cricket records will be re-written wherever they play. That, as Tony Greig would say, is for sure!
How did three become two?
Last week, a reader taking cover under the pseudonym of Cover Fielder, queried the wisdom of weak teams being slotted into the Champions Trophy, stating "there was a very weak team in each pool of 3 groups." Then he goes on further: "A better arrangement would have been for the 10 Test-playing nations to play each other in two groups (one weak side in each group) giving a total of 18 matches plus a final between the group leaders." If there was a weak team in "each pool of 3 groups", how come in the "better arrangement" there is going to be "one weak side in each group?" Three weak sides cannot become two just because there is a new arrangement. Remember, one of the Test-playing too falls into the category of "weak" namely Bangladesh - and merely slotting them amongst the Test-playing nations does not make them any stronger. Whilst appreciating Cover Fielders concern, one can only hope that our administrators will not kill the golden goose by over-killing the sport under mistaken notion of spreading the game.
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