Friday 27 April 2018

A deserved moment of triumph to underline ICC injustice

Kevin O'Brien celebrates with his Ireland teammates after taking the wicket of West Indies batsman Dwayne Smith during their ICC Cricket World Cup clash in Nelson. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images
Kevin O'Brien celebrates with his Ireland teammates after taking the wicket of West Indies batsman Dwayne Smith during their ICC Cricket World Cup clash in Nelson. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Tim Wigmore

When the West Indies' score reached 111 - nelson at Nelson - the crowd were implored to stand on one leg "unless you want the batsman to get out". This prompted wry amusement around the ground.

Virtually every spectator, even if they were not draped in green, was urging Ireland on, 12,000 miles away from the Emerald Isle.

Small-town Nelson is also a long way from the glamour of the Melbourne Cricket Ground or the Adelaide Oval. Indeed, the entire population of Nelson would occupy only half of the MCG.

But this charming boutique ground, on the north coast of New Zealand's South Island, was witness to the most significant of the World Cup's five games so far yesterday. The template that had prevailed - the stronger side bats first, scores over 300 and wins - was broken as a chasing side triumphed for the first time.

More importantly, Ireland's emphatic victory adds spice to the group stages.

Just don't go call it a shock. That much the Ireland captain, William Porterfield, was clear on. "I don't see it as an upset," he said. "I actually hate the term upsets."

So a moment of Irish triumph, a victory far more resounding than the three-wicket wins over Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup and England in 2011, became a chance for them to highlight the unjust hand they are dealt. Because of cricket's archaic way of dividing up countries - there are full members who enjoy copious funding and playing opportunities, and then associate and affiliate members who are not invited to the Test-playing club - Ireland are left to fight over scraps.

"It would be nice to have more fixtures in the four years outside of the World Cups," Porterfield said. "We've played nine ODIs against top-eight teams in the last four years, which is frustrating, and then we come here and show what we can do."

West Indies' Darren Sammy, who added to his reputation as one of the game's nicest men with his congratulations to Porterfield, also backed Ireland's cause.

"They could go far in this tournament," he said. "If they continue to play like this they will get what they finally deserve."

There have now been five successful chases of over 300 in World Cup history and three have been by Ireland, the team that cricket's ruling elite ignores. For as long as Ireland are denied Test status and a decent fixture list, England will be able to cherry-pick the best Irish talent, like Eoin Morgan and Boyd Rankin.

The chief executive of the International Cricket Council, Dave Richardson, recently said that only eight teams in the world are "competitive", which he used as justification for the plan for the 2019 World Cup to be reduced to 10 teams. According to an ICC source, Giles Clarke, who would like to become president next year, is "hell-bent" on a 10-team competition, on the grounds that it would guarantee India nine matches.

Yet, on this sumptuous day at Nelson, Ireland made a mockery of such sporting injustice.

For all the thrill brought by Ireland's victory, there was an elegiac element to watching a West Indies team with such a singular lack of focus and discipline. Yet nostalgia is no reason to maintain a status quo that shows such contempt for cricket's emerging nations. (© Independent News Service)

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