Ireland still has a long way to go

As has been seen with the two new Test entrants, Ireland and Afghanistan, the gap between white ball cricket and red ball cricket is a huge one and is not so easy to bridge.

India’s Suresh Raina bats during the second T20I against England on July 6 in Cardiff, Wales.   -  Getty Images

Bangladesh found it hard in the Caribbean isles as the West Indies seem to have once against found a couple of quicks who are making batsmen hop. Shannon Gabriel has been most impressive, bowling consistently around the 150km per hour mark and Kemar Roach, although not as quick as when he started out, is sharp enough and getting movement to trouble the batsmen, especially when the ball is new. The third quick, Miguel Cummins, is still not in full rhythm, but when he gets it right he can be an awkward customer. They are supported by their skipper Jason Holder, who bowls a nagging line and gets the new ball to move nicely. Then there is Alzarri Joseph, who is injured but still has age on his side to be the kind of quick the batsmen don’t like facing.

West Indies’ batting still does not quite have the consistency that the team of the 1970s had, but then it’s virtually impossible to replicate a batting unit that had Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Viv Richards, Alvin Kallicharran and Clive Lloyd, with wicketkeeper Jeff Dujon to follow.

Shane Dowrich, the new wicketkeeper, has been impressive both with the bat and behind the stumps with the big gloves, much to the dismay of the supporters of Denesh Ramdin, who Dowrich displaced.

In Zimbabwe, Aaron Finch beat his own record of the highest individual score in Twenty20 cricket internationals, scoring 172, and that emphasises how much the game has progressed. A team total of 175 was the kind that teams thought was good to defend, but here now is an individual batsman getting that sort of score himself. It’s like Rohit Sharma getting the highest individual score of 264 in ODIs when teams not so long ago thought that that kind of score was good to win a game. Mind you, teams still win T20 games scoring 175 and 265 in a 50-over match, but, still, to find individual batsmen’s scores like that does tell you how the game has evolved. When statisticians put up batsmen’s statistics in Test match and 50-over cricket, they usually tell how many 50s and 100s a batsman has scored, but in T20 cricket they bring it down to 30s and that’s simply because in the ultra-short format of the game scoring 30 is hard. Even harder is to get three wickets as a bowler because a bowler gets only four overs to bowl, so the stats for bowlers in T20 cricket usually tell how many 3-fors a bowler has got instead of the fifers and ten-fors that statsmen have for the 50-over format and Tests.

Kieran Powell (L), Shane Dowrich, Jason Holder and Shannon Gabriel of West Indies celebrate the dismissal of Mominul Haque of Bangladesh.   -  AFP

 

India began its tour of the United Kingdom in sensational fashion, outclassing Ireland in both the T20 internationals. The Ireland games were a good warm-up and practice for the tougher England tour that followed. It showed that the much-hyped Ireland side has a long way to go before it can be on par with the big boys. Yes, as happens occasionally in limited-overs cricket, Ireland will shock the odd Test team, but the consistency to maintain that kind of form has not been seen from the side as yet. With just about every single cricketer playing for English counties, all that experience and exposure has not yet showed when they play for Ireland. In the recent qualifying for next year’s ICC World Cup tournament for associates in Zimbabwe, Ireland was not even in the top four and that’s why its whining that it should have got direct entry for the tournament next year makes no sense at all. If you can’t hold your own in an associates tournament, how can you hope to play with the big boys? Afghanistan won that tournament, beating West Indies in the final. And while the Asian side will be more of a threat in limited-overs internationals, it will find it harder in red ball cricket as was seen in its inaugural Test match against India in Bengaluru in June.

Scotland’s shock win over England in the only One-Day International it played in June has once again sparked demands for the team to be given Test status. But as has been seen with the two new Test entrants, Ireland and Afghanistan, the gap between white ball cricket and red ball cricket is a huge one and is not so easy to bridge.