Zimbabwe & Bangladesh’s failure, not that of Associates, is disappointing
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We took eight days at the ICC World T20 to get to the eight teams we knew would play the next stage. We yearned for the established teams to squirm a bit, maybe even get embarrassed slightly; why, we wouldn't even have minded if one got knocked out because it would have meant the game had got richer more competitive. But apart from a tiny little period of play from the spirited Afghans against India, we yearned in vain. There is still no challenge to the established forces and that isn't great news for a global sport. A hundred countries may play cricket but it is still really only eight.
Of the four countries that made an early exit, two (Afghanistan and Ireland) need more cricket and two (Zimbabwe and Bangladesh) need to be challenged. I think the Irish have a point when they say they don't get enough cricket against better teams and it is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately because otherwise they will continue to lose players to England. Eoin Morgan has been lost, now Boyd Rankin has quit and at some point George Dockrell is going to think about whether he can fulfil his dreams in the limited opportunities he gets.
We saw too that in the limited cricket world they have seen, Afghanistan have made impressive strides. They deserve to be tested more at another level. They looked far from ready against England, and they will be against teams with pace and bounce, but they have shown the spirit and a couple of players have started to catch the eye.
But the problem before world cricket, outside the top eight, is not as much with Ireland or Afghanistan or Holland or anyone else seeking to break in but more with those that are already in but not looking the part. Zimbabwe and Bangladesh were terribly disappointing and I suspect for their own development, they need to be asked some hard questions. At least Zimbabwe can point to political and allied issues but Bangladesh can't. They have the funds, the facilities and the opportunities but not the results.