What are 15 men from each of these sixteen nations – Afghanistan, Bermuda, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Oman, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, Uganda and United States of America – battling for in the scorching summer heat, in five grounds across the United Arab Emirates? For two spots in the World Twenty20, of course.
72 games have been squeezed into 12 days (effectively 10 days, as there are two off-days in between). The teams have been divided into two groups. The round-robin phase will see each team play the other seven teams in their group once. The top six teams (three from each group) proceed to the knockouts. It’s a gruelling qualification process, given that winner will face Australia and West Indies and the runner-up, India and England in the World Cup; Four of the strongest teams in the tournament!
For those unfamiliar with cricket: Twenty20, or T20, is one of the three forms of international cricket (the other two being Tests and One-Day Internationals). Tests are played across 5 days, ODIs over 8 hours and T20 in about 3 hours. T20s are the shortest, commercially most viable and the easiest and best way to introduce the game to a new audience. The International Cricket Council (ICC), therefore, pushes T20s and ODs heavily in developmental territories.
None of the sixteen teams have played Tests (which, incidentally, turns one hundred and thirty five today. Happy 135th, my favourite format :) ). Some of the sixteen have played ODIs. Afghanistan, Ireland and Netherlands have made the most noticeable international impact of late. Kenya were a decent team not too long ago, making the semi-finals of the 2003 ODI world cup.
What excites many cricket fans around the world are the presence of new teams like Italy and Nepal. Unlike Canada, Hong Kong and USA which are predominantly made up of players originating from the Asian test playing nations (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh), Nepal has a 100% native team. That is vital for the game to develop to international standards quickly in new cricketing nations. Italy has a captain of Italian origin, which is wonderful, but most of the rest of the team aren’t native Italians. Yes, cricket was taken to the Americas and Europe (outside of the UK) by sub-continental citizens who shifted bases. But it would be wonderful to see the natives pick it up.
That brings me to my reason for this post. If you’re living in a country which does not have an international test cricket team (Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies or Zimbabwe), I’d love to know about cricket in your country! :) Are you aware of a game called Cricket? :D Is it a popular past-time in your country? (A good way to judge this is – do kids play the game in their backyards/streets?) Is it played only by immigrants/temporary residents from countries where cricket is more popular, or do the natives take part too? Have you watched an international game of cricket, live or on TV? Do you think Cricket will/can be popular in your country? :)
If you’re from one of the sixteen nations, how many of the players representing you are you familiar with? :)
The qualifying tournament is now three days old, and some upsets have happened already! We’ll have our qualifying champions in nine days. You can follow all the action here.
Cricket fans around the world, (or at least me! :) ) dream of an English tour of Argentina, or an Indian tour of Brazil, compromising of three tests, three ODIs and three T20Is. It might not happen in my lifetime. But I’m sure it will happen someday. If I live long enough, I might probably see Ireland, Netherlands and Afghanistan attain Test Status, and what a wonderful day that would be! :)
DID YOU KNOW:
- Bermuda’s population is 64,268 (2010 est.). The seating capacity of Eden Gardens, a cricket ground here in India, is 90,000 (130,000 standing)
- Geraint Jones, the former English International Wicketkeeeper born to Welsh parents who speaks with an Australian accent, is playing for Papua New Guinea (his country of birth) in the qualifiers.
- Michael Di Venuto, the former Australian International, is playing for Italy, his country of origin, in the qualifiers.
EDIT 24 March: Afghanistan (unbeaten) and Ireland have qualified :)
Cricket is baseball on valium. ~Robin Williams xD
I tend to think that cricket is the greatest thing that God ever created on earth – certainly greater than sex, although sex isn’t too bad either ~ Harold Pinter