by Rex Clementine
The team that taught everyone how to play limited overs cricket is on the verge of elimination from this year’s World Cup as West Indies cut a pale shadow of their former self in the group stages of the World Cup Qualifiers.
If the two-time champions’ defeat to Zimbabwe was an upset their defeat to Netherlands in a Super Over shocked the cricketing world as not too often a team goes onto lose a cricket match after posting 374.
West Indies progress to the Super Six stage with no points with them and that means there’s little room for error. However, all hope is not lost for Shai Hope’s side. Afghanistan in the last event were faced with a similar predicament as they failed to pick up any points in the group stage but stunned everyone in the Super Sixes and went onto book a place in the World Cup.
Former champions Sri Lanka meanwhile have done everything right and are just one win away from securing a berth to India given that they carry four points with them and a healthy Net Run Rate.
Their bowling looks formidable although there are few concerns about their batting. It is the top order that has scored heavily for Sri Lanka while the middle order is yet to be tested,
A couple of Sri Lankan batters have had a wretched time in the series, but they have a problem as they are not carrying an extra batsman in the squad.
Opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratne has been a sensation having scored two fifties and one hundred in four innings but if oppositions get him early, Sri Lanka will struggle.
Having marginally missed out on playing the last World Cup, Zimbabwe are all set to go through for this year’s event following their win over West Indies in the group stage. Zimbabwe, like Sri Lanka are on four points and will be targeting games against Oman and Scotland to pull through.
The big hope for Dave Houghton’s side is Sean Williams, who has amassed 390 runs in just four games with two hundreds.
Sikandar Raza and Ryan Burl in the middle order provide the fireworks for the Zimbabwe side. Seam bowling options are the weak link of Zimbabwe.
Scotland stunned Ireland in a thrilling one wicket win and cruised past their other opponents before stumbling against Sri Lanka in their last group game.
More than extra ordinary talent, Scotland are punching above their weight for the simple reason that they have assessed the conditions well in Zimbabwe. This is early winter in the African nation and more than bowlers with extra pace, those who can seam the ball just a little bit can be more effective and that’s what South African born Brandon McMullen and Chris Sole have done.
Their captain Richie Berrington has done bulk of the scoring for the Scots having amassed over 200 runs at an average of 51.
Spin can cause trouble for the Scots as it was proven in the game against Sri Lanka.
Oman sealed Ireland’s fate in the tournament when they defeated them by five wickets and earned a spot for the Super Sixes following their win over UAE.
What Oman has achieved in cricket in a short span is truly remarkable. They have already featured in a T-20 World Cup and although they might struggle to get to a 50 over World Cup, reaching the second round of the qualifiers was indeed a feather in their cap.
England, Australia and New Zealand aren’t the only countries to have benefited from the exodus of cricketing talents from South Africa. Netherlands have got the best out of the South Africans as well.
Scott Edwards, the captain is the mainstay of their batting. Consistency is his forte having produced three half-centuries in four games.
In the maniac run chase against the West Indies it was Indian born Teja Nidamanuru who produced a 78 ball 111 but just when West Indies appeared to have pulled things off came that stunning hitting in the super over by Logan van Beek.
The grandson of Sammy Guillen, who had played Test cricket for two countries - West Indies and New Zealand, van Beek looks a clean striker of the cricket ball and he could hurt some big teams in the Super Sixes.
Max O'Dowd although has produced two half-centuries in the competition, it has been a quiet tournament for him by his standards. He certainly is a player who opponents should worry about.
Ireland has been the biggest disappointment in the competition. Of all participants, they have had the best preparation ahead of the Qualifiers having toured Bangladesh, England and Sri Lanka in the last two months.
They were expected to cruise in the group stage but suffered shock defeats at the hands of Oman and Scotland and bowled out with just one win over UAE.
Paul Stirling, their most experienced player produced a big hundred in the competition, but it was too late for the Irish.
Mark Adair was the standout performer among the bowlers but received little support from the rest.
You do feel for the state of cricket in UAE. A country that has proud cricketing history having won the ICC Trophy in 1994 and taken part in the 1996 World Cup long before Afghanistan or Bangladesh dreamt about it, they are not firing on all cylinders.
Despite having a strong presence of Asian expatriates who love the game and excellent cricketing facilities be it the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Shiekh Zayed Stadium or Sharjah Stadium and a vibrant body to run the sport in Emirates Cricket Board, their recent performances have been disappointing to say the least.
The whole UAE team put together managed just one half-century and that summed up their sorry story in the competition.
Although Nepal managed just one win in the competition, they fared much better than some of the teams although they failed to progress to the Super Sixes.
Nepal scored 290 in their opening game against Zimbabwe and had West Indies 55 for three at one stage.
Their star performer Sandeep Lamichhane is a big attraction in cricket globetrotting playing league cricket including the IPL. He had a poor series picking up just three wickets and that was the main contributory factor for the Nepalese to not go beyond the first round.
The interest for the game of cricket in Nepal is extraordinary and maybe only second to Calcutta in India. Better days are certainly ahead for this budding cricketing nation. The fact that the next 50 over World Cup will feature 14 teams and not ten is certainly exciting news for up-and-coming sides like Nepal.
United States of America lost all four games they featured in but it’s only a matter of time before they go onto become a force in the sport.
The Major Cricket League, a franchise tournament to be worked off in US, will give a massive boost for the sport in US and so will the ICC T-20 World Cup to be worked off their next year.
The other interesting aspect is that the US is welcoming cricketers from around the world giving them residential visas and you see so many talents going over there. A strong US side will augur well for the sport and no doubt exciting times are ahead for the great game of ours.