A panacea to certain ills

Holland's captain Luuk van Troost (left) in conversation with his Canadian counterpart Davison during the ICC Trophy tournament.-AP Holland's captain Luuk van Troost (left) in conversation with his Canadian counterpart Davison during the ICC Trophy tournament.

I CONTINUOUSLY read about how tough international cricket is and how hard done are the players due to the amount of cricket played.

I CONTINUOUSLY read about how tough international cricket is and how hard done are the players due to the amount of cricket played. The cure, join me in Ireland where the ICC Trophy is being played. Twelve of the ICC Associate Members have qualified through various tournaments around the world for what is their greatest cricketing challenge.

The honour of being crowned the best of the best in this area will be a great reward, but even more important is that the top five teams will qualify for the 2007 World Cup. This of course will be a dream come true for the players but even more important for cricket in their country is that the ICC will spend up to $(U.S) 500,000 on each team which qualifies, for preparing the teams for the World Cup and also the development of cricket in general in their country.

This money is the life blood of the cricketing minnows and the encouragement for all cricketers and officials, who battle so hard to keep cricket alive and on the improve in countries that hardly know that the sport exists.

This is the third time that I have participated in such a gathering. Once with Bermuda and now twice with Holland. For me, it is somewhat like a time warp of forty or fifty years ago to the developing of my own cricket.

While cricket in those days was high profile our playing conditions and awards were rather similar. For instance all New South Wales players including the likes of Keith Miller, Neil Harvey, Arthur Morris, Richie Benaud and Ray Lindwall received the same expenses, payment of two pounds (Aus) per day as 17-year-old colts Ian Craig and Bob Simpson. Those were less complicated cricketing days though I must say the professionalism of the players was just as keen, competitive and the standards equally high.

In those so called less professional time the camaraderie, I believe, was closer and perhaps even more sincere with money not clouding every situation as it does now. That is what I find so refreshing and enjoyable with this tournament. Friendships are easily made and kept. Watching the players greet each other from friendship established sometime over a period of years shows the spirit of cricket is very much alive in the Associate Countries.

This is not a new event and Sri Lanka won the inaugural ICC Trophy in 1979. Zimbabwe won it in 1982, 86 and 90 while United Arab Emirates surprised the cricketing world and won in 1994. Bangladesh won in 1997 and Holland in 2001. Three countries, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have been granted Test status mainly due to their performance in the ICC Trophy. Ireland is doing a superb job in organising and running this tournament. The initial rounds are being played in Belfast and the finals will take place in Dublin. In all 25 venues will be used. I must say I have been enchanted with all the grounds I have seen so far.

Scenically they are beautiful and the outfields are up to Test standard and the wickets generally play true and fair. I envy their club houses and the Irish spirit that permeates in each club house and ground. A truly outstanding atmosphere. This same atmosphere exists in the two hotels which are housing teams and officials. I have seen many World Cups and attended other mass competitions, but none of them can match the friendliness and special feeling of this one.

While some of the coaches like Gus Logie with Bermuda, Faud Bachus with the United States of America, both represented the West Indies and several others including myself represented our respective countries, it matters little to the associates for they see us, and they should, as just part of this wonderful championship.

What then is the standard of this gathering. Surprisingly much better than most expect.

While several countries are gathering experience, Ireland, Scotland, Holland, Namibia and Canada, look to be the teams with the best chance to go through to the World Cup.

The English media and it seems all England is going ga ga over the exciting tie in the recent NatWest Series final. I wonder whether this awe has been brought about by relief that England had got out of a tight spot in that final. It has been an interesting progress to this situation. When Bangladesh and then England beat Australia the whole of England seemed to be gloating at Australia's misfortune. Our time has come, seemed to be the main angle for this joy, but has England's time really arrived.

Former West Indian player Gus Logie is now coach of the Bermuda team.-N. SRIDHARAN

The wonderful victory against Australia was followed by gloom as Australia comprehensively beat it in the next match and then after having been bowled out for under 200 Australia let loose Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee at Lord's to have England reeling at five for 33 after just 10 overs. To its credit England fought back through Paul Collingwood and Geraint Jones, an Australian I might add, and just when it looked as though they would carry the team through they were out and the stage was set for a dramatic finish.

England will have been pleased with a tie as would have Ricky Ponting in the last overs, but the reality of the situation is that the English batsmen have shown again they have problem in handling class bowling and concentrating on line and length.

I wrote in this column earlier in the season that the difference between the two teams would be Australia's formidable bowling attack. Nothing has changed my views on this, though I expect Brett Lee to partner McGrath and Gillespie with the new ball. My thoughts were originally that Kasprowicz would be the third seamer, but his form has waned and Lee is back to his brilliant best.

Lee's pace and late in-swing to the left hand openers, Strauss and Trescothick must be causing alarm in the English camp.

McGrath controlled Trescothick in Australia with the one that left the bat but Lee's in-swing and ability to also move the ball away to the left handers in a double wammy.

When you add Shane Warne to this three some you have a very formidable line up. Shane has a wonderful record against England in both Australia and England and I believe he will be just as dangerous this season. While he again has problems in his personal life, Shane seems to have the ability to put them aside and concentrate on his cricket.

Some have also suggested that his stint with Hampshire has allowed the English batsmen to become familiar with his style. Forget it, Shane for Australia is a different bowler than the one who turns out for Victoria or Hampshire.