Ireland worthier of Test status than Zimbabwe

2009-06-13 00:00

ORDINARILY a columnist chooses a theme and goes helter-skelter until the page cries enough. However, so many things unfolded this week that isolating one topic requires the self-denial detected only in those capable of taking a single peanut.

Nor can the issues be interwoven with the sort of subtlety detected in the best carpet makers. In any case, it’s Friday, not a bad day for a casserole

It’ss high time Ireland was given Test status. Heck, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh retain the ranking crack so the fine men of the home of Leprechauns deserve it. Without their two best players, Eoin Morgan and Ed Joyce, both sequestered by the Poms, the green men still managed to reach the second stage of the 20-over thriller under way in the old dart. Doubtless, they will hereafter come a cropper, but the point has been made. Ireland is the strongest of the non-Test nations, a status achieved without resort to imports and worthy of recognition.

To that end, two tiers of Test cricket need to be created. People must stop fainting whenever changes to the five-day game are suggested. Ireland could play in the second division alongside the aforementioned pair, plus Netherlands, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Scotland and whoever else cuts the mustard — maybe Afghanistan soon. Incidentally, the rise of these nations is due in part to outstanding work by the ICC development crew. Of late, Sierra Leone’s under-19 side impressed all and sundry by beating more fancied African nations to reach the under-19 world finals. Likewise, PNG and Vanuatu are coming along at pace, Fiji is rebuilding ( they were strong until the 1970s) and even Japan is rising. Amidst all the cynicism it’s important to remember that ten thousand unsung servants are unobtrusively lifting the game.

No tears need be shed for the Zimbos or Banglas. They’ve messed up. Zimbabwe has just appointed to run one of its new- fangled structures a bloke previously banned from club cricket for head-butting an opponent, ejected from provincial administration for stealing, who wrecked a team bus on an official tour, invited ladies of the night to the team box to watch a contest and yelled out insults to Australian opponents. Obviously he’s a pal of the silver-tongued, wealthy thugs running the show. By that token, it is galling to hear Zimbabwe’s absence from the T20 described as political. Politics is about ANC, DA, Cope and IFP. It’s a personal choice and no one else’s business. Zimbabwe is about torture, killing, starvation, hospitals turned into death camps, poverty, despair, collapse of courts and free speech and larceny on a grand scale, and all dressed up in the sort of liberation finery that appeals to the smug. Between them, the Zanu-PF operators in charge of the country and its cricket could pay off all international debts in five minutes. Instead they bleat because their overseas accounts have been frozen. Their wives must be upset.

Moving along, West Indies ought to sack its captain and appoint Dwayne Bravo in his place. Chris Gayle was worth a punt because West Indian cricket was dying, but he’s blown it. Captains need to be unselfish and generous. A stint in the second division might concentrate minds. Greed is destroying the game at the top level. There’s nothing wrong with rich players — it’s much better than the old days when past champions were paid a pittance for playing in front of huge crowds and were liable to end up with a begging bowl. But dosh cannot be the be-all and end-all. Cricketers are supposed to work to a higher standard than British politicians.

Although Ricky Ponting seemed shocked, Australia’s early exit from the T20 World Cup was not such an upset. Apart from anything else, it was a tough group. It’s a signal for the Aussies to ditch their old-timers and to choose a daring, youthful twenty over outfit led by Michael Clarke and including Phil Hughes. Ponting, the Husseys, Nathan Bracken, Brett Lee and the rest can focus on Test and 50-over cricket.

Lastly, a swift jump to the slower ball — the most over-rated delivery in the game (short extra-cover is the most over-rated fielding position). In 18 years of playing with or against Joel Garner, Curtly Ambrose, Richard Hadlee, Malcolm Marshall, Andy Roberts, Dennis Lillee, Imran Khan and Waqar Younis, I cannot recall any of them bowling a single slower ball.

What on earth is the use of a slower ball to a bloke possessing a deadly yorker, a chin warmer that rises from a length and an ability to move the ball both ways? Slower balls are for spinners and medium pacers. Everyone has been talking about flips over the bowler’s head, swipes out of the ground and clips past fine leg. Let them try these shots against a proper fast bowler intent on cracking wood or bone. Pacemen should stop selling themselves short.

That’s the lot. Except that porcupines regularly appear on our property and seem not to regard themselves as exotic. Oh yes, and the Lankans and Kiwis are still worth a flutter at odds in this T20 tournament.

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