In A State Of Despair : A Shoutout To The Associates

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In A State Of Despair : A Shoutout To The Associates

“The umpires have called it. Scotland are out.” It was this tweet from Cricket Scotland’s twitter handle that broke out the dreaded news, quicker than expected. It was at the 2015 Cricket World Cup that I saw Scotland play for the first time.

As a fervid cricket enthusiast from India, the sight of a Scottish cricket team, a lesser known entity at global stage caught me by surprise but their brand of cricket was just as exciting. They gave tough fights to host New Zealand and lost to Afghanistan by a whisker. It wasn’t the size of the dog that mattered, it was the fight within it that did. The phrase fit them perfectly after learning that they had won straight eight games to qualify for the World Cup. Definitely not a small feat for a team whose country was once considered to be a mere appendage of England.
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Since then, they have only grown as a unit in terms of intensity and professionalism. To not see them or any other Associate nation at the 2019 World Cup is soul-shattering. The word gutted doesn’t even come close.

The fact that Scotland’s campaign was memorable in so many ways makes the end result look devastating. A tournament that began with such good promise as they swept aside tournament-favourites Afghanistan, deserved a better ending. Two horrific decisions by umpire Paul Wilson- one against Ireland when Andrew Balbirnie was plumb lbw for one but went onto make 105 and another when Richie Berrington was given lbw against West Indies but as replays suggested, the ball would have gone down the leg side- proved to be major setbacks in the context of each games.

If only the games had Decision Review System(DRS).

The reason why the Qualifiers didn’t have the DRS was because a number of games were not being televised , and for conditions to be consistent for all matches, the ICC decided not to use DRS for any of the games. It leads one to ask: Why weren’t the games televised?

Simple. The ICC wanted to keep the cost down as they saw the Qualifiers as a non-profit tournament. If there is DRS at the World Cup, there should be DRS at the World Cup Qualifying event. Even the IPL this year is set to have DRS. Farce logic.

West Indies may have heaved a sigh of relief but they’ll never understand what it means to not qualify for a World Cup, given how the Associates overcome struggles repeatedly with not many games and much funding to motivate the players. Unfortunately, there is nothing on the horizon for Scotland in the rest of 2018 except three games- two against Pakistan and one against England.

With ICC gearing up for the 2019 World Cup, it is worth mentioning that it would be the first tournament of its kind which would not feature a single Associate nation. The qualifiers have been a tournament of “firsts”. First win for Hong Kong against a Test nation (Afghanistan), first win for UAE against a Test nation (Zimbabwe), first time Nepal walked away with ODI status and first time Zimbabwe won’t be a part of a World Cup even after some solid performances in crunch situations. Hopefully, the ICC is considerably embarrassed.
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The fight shown by teams like Nepal, PNG, UAE, Hong Kong and Scotland only highlighted the depth of the Associate cricketing circle. It is a shame we wont be seeing any at the World Cup. The 10-team showpiece event being hosted by England and Wales next year could have done better with lesser known faces who provide a different set of skills altogether, which not many get to see on television regularly. Wins by close margins and upsets have brought the element of surprise at the Qualifiers, which saw the final World Cup spot being sealed on the penultimate day of the tournament, could have made for a great viewing at the World Cup .

The gloom was equal to everyone in the Scottish changing rooms after a narrow five-run loss against the West Indies but the skipper, Kyle Coetzer, who endured one of the toughest days of his career, handled a difficult press conference with dignity and poise. They challenged every team they faced and staged a great advert for Associate cricket.

Alas, the tournament ended in a rather anti-climatic fashion although it could have been organised in a much better way with inclusion of DRS and scheduling reserve days for crucial encounters.

Hopefully the Associates get more opportunities at a higher level in the build-up to the 2023 World Cup. After all, you don’t want teams bowing out with dashed World Cup dreams in the face of farcical umpiring decisions and erratic weather conditions.

Kyle Coetzer rightly said, “ Five runs and something pretty important could have happened there. You are playing with people’s livelihood.”

He kept it short but let his team’s grit, determination and perseverance do the talking. The power of brevity. Less is more.

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