Too many one-sided contests

ONE of the big debates in the World Cup, before the mega event and during it, has been about the lesser sides, on how many of them we can have in the tournament. It is important that the tournament spreads globally. However, we should also ensure that the premier one-day competition does not get diluted.

K. SRIKKANTH

ONE of the big debates in the World Cup, before the mega event and during it, has been about the lesser sides, on how many of them we can have in the tournament. It is important that the tournament spreads globally. However, we should also ensure that the premier one-day competition does not get diluted.

Picture shows the Bangladesh scoreboard after just five balls of the first over by Sri Lankan Chaminda Vaas in their World Cup tie. "There has been absolutely no improvement in the standard of Bangladesh cricket," says the author. — Pic. AFP-

I must say here that there have been a few exceptional performances from the minnows, the most striking by a team being Kenya's sensational victory over the Sri Lankans, who came into the match as overwhelming favourites, having won all their three matches.

They were in for a rude shock, with the Kenyans ambushing the islanders in the Nairobi Gymkhana. There is a lesson for all the sides to be learnt here. Never take any opposition lightly.

Probably, the Lankans paid the price for complacency, and there were some forgettable strokes during their chase. However, you have to give the Kenyans their due, they kept the pressure on their fancied rivals and took their chances.

There is something about the Kenyans that grabs your attention. Probably, it is their athleticism and they are among the most natural athletes in world cricket. There is no dearth of talent too, and in captain Steve Tikolo, Kenya has a batsman, compact in defence, and possessing a wide range of strokes, who would hold his own in any company. It is a pity that Tikolo has not figured in a Test match, simply because Kenya has still not been granted Test status. Former captain Maurice Odumbe is also a flamboyant stroke-player apart from being a useful off-spinner.

In Kennedy Obuya and Ravindu Shah, the Kenyans have openers who have done their job fairly well over the years, while Thomos Odoyo is a combative all-rounder, who can operate at a lively pace apart from playing some attacking strokes with the willow.

However, the hero of the Kenyan win over the Lankans was a leg-spinner about whom I had not heard much. Collins Obuya's five-wicket spell spelt doom for Sri Lanka and the leg-spinner did get the ball to turn, and maintained the right length, not wilting under the pressure of bowling to an explosive bunch of stroke-makers, which the Lankans can be when in mood.

Obuya's success augurs well for Kenyan cricket, for I believe there is plenty of natural talent in that country. What the Kenyan cricket needs right now is more exposure.

That is not something, which the Bangladesh cricket has lacked. However, the side continues to flounder at the international level, raising serious questions about its status as a Test playing nation.

The side has been touring quite extensively over the past two years, yet there is not a single batsman or bowler from the country who has captured attention. I feel there has been absolutely no improvement in the standard of Bangladesh cricket.

In fact, it has only got worse. Fours years back, they managed to upset Pakistan in the World Cup, but haven't done much since. Bangladesh, indeed, has one of the longest losing streaks in both Test and ODI cricket.

Worse, they do not appear capable of improving upon their performance, given the obvious lack of talent in the side. The Test status, I feel, was given in a rather hurried manner to Bangladesh and it should have been made to earn it, which would have only improved the quality of cricket in this sub-continental country.

There are still far too many chinks in the side, and I think the time has come for the International Cricket Council (ICC) to undo the error that has been committed in the first place.

The ICC should reconsider Bangladesh's Test status, and if need be, not hesitate to take the hard decision. This will not only benefit world cricket, but would also help Bangladesh cricket in the long run.

What's happening now is that they are being outclassed game after game and the matches are turning out to be a farce. The lowest point in Bangladesh's cricket was the defeat at the hands of Canada, and this result exposed the country's standard. Looking at Bangladesh, I believe Kenya is desperately unlucky not to receive Test status, for there surely is more ability and character in the side. I remember that in the '99 World Cup in England, where the conditions suited the pacemen, Kenya made over 200 in all its matches, and that in itself was a creditable achievement. In the ICC Champions Trophy in Colombo, in September last year, the Kenyans were not far away from upstaging the West Indies, and had they held their catches that day, we could have seen an upset there as well.

If Kenya's performance against the Sri Lankans was out of the ordinary, no less sensational was Canadian John Davison's whirlwind knock that shook the West Indies. It was one of the most punishing innings I have seen, and the manner in which Davison took the fight to the Caribbean pacemen was admirable.

Actually, the West Indians had quite a good attack for the match, and Mervyn Dillon, Pedro Collins and Vasbert Drakes are certainly not the kind of bowlers who can be whacked around the park.

Davison, to the astonishment of many, did just that, taking us to the great truth - bowling is only as good as you make it out to be. Innovation is the key aspect while batting in the first 15 overs, especially if you want to seize the initiative from the opposition and Davison did just that, stepping down and making room. It really was a performance that was worth going miles to see and having been an attacking opener myself, I thoroughly enjoyed that knock. It certainly brought back some old memories. Davison's performance was very entertaining, and so was Kenya's victory, but I feel having four non-Test playing nations in the World Cup, apart from Bangladesh which hardly deserves the status, will hamper the competition in the long run.

What the ICC could do is to have a final screening tournament before the World Cup and only one non-Test playing nation, apart from Kenya, should be allowed to take part. This will strengthen the World Cup. Otherwise we will once again witness far too many one-sided matches.