Batting for the Associates

Published: September 20, 2012

They have impressed every time they have been on the field and if you follow Associate cricket, you’ll know the whole world is watching them. PHOTO: REUTERS

So we have Ireland and Afghanistan representing the Associates in this World Cup. Associates, if anybody needs explaining, are countries that have not been granted Test membership from ICC. The focus of the whole world is on the big teams with the big reputations. I say fair enough, they are quality sides, more dazzling and since fever for the sport on a national level is restricted to few countries, it makes good business sense to do so!

However, for a little while in global cricket competitions, we witness the less fancied sides – lo and behold the Associates!  Nations with fabled stories of the road to the World Cup, qualification battles, and players without a contract travelling on work leaves. These are the underground rock bands standing alongside the professionals. The sparring bots neck to neck with the Midas, Twin Cities and Zeus (couldn’t resist the Real Steel comparison).

I love following the Associates. They add such beautiful romance to the game. There is hardly any reputation to uphold, nobody expects you to win! Teams often just go out there, try to do their best and have some fun. Some matches even become folklore when an Associate beats a full member!

Oh yes, it’ll be foolish to deny that the Associates have got some world class talent.

Kenya, before their recent descent into dismal sports management, was served very well in particular, by Collins Obuya , Steve Tikolo (once hailed as the top Associate batsman), and Maurice Odumbe who played critical roles in famous victories over West Indies, Srilanka and Bangladesh. The whole cricket community followed their spectacular journey to the semifinals of the World Cup in 2003.

Remember Canada – remember John Davison who till 2011, held the record for the fastest ODI World Cup century when he smashed West Indies all over the park for a hundred off 67 balls! His record was only beaten last year by an even more belligerent Associate batsman – Kevin O’Brien from Ireland.  Chasing 327, his match-winning century off 50 balls against England is considered one of the greatest innings played in the World Cup. Another Canadian Rizwan Cheema comes to mind who resembles someone straight out of Shahid Afridi’s Cavalier Art of Batting text book; though he hasn’t had great success against stronger teams, just watching him bat is an event itself.

As Pakistanis, we shall always remember the heartbreaks the Irish gave us when they ousted us out of the 2007 World Cup in the first round itself. They even beat Bangladesh in that World Cup proving their performance was not just a fluke. It was humiliating for us, but fantastic for a team whose players’ biggest worry as they made it to the Super Eight, was applying for further leave from work. The Netherlands had to worry about the same thing, as they contemplated a Super Eight berth following their tense victory against England in the opening game of T20 WC 2009. They say London was painted orange for a day!

The Afghans are the most stunning story of all. They have risen from Division 5 where they played against the likes of Japan to an ODI status within four years and now boast a team of such quality that regularly beats other Associate stalwarts that have been at it for years. Perhaps fittingly, most of them have the looks of seasoned warriors, epitomized none better than by their captain Nowroz Mangal and their headband-wearing enigma and leading fast bowler Hamid Hassan. They have impressed every time they have been on the field and if you follow Associate cricket, you’ll know the whole world is watching them.

Dirk Nannes, a Dutch fast bowler, was the story of the T20 World Cup in 2009 – perhaps a sportsman that wandered the most. A professional skier, he represented the Netherlands and later Australia, and had success for both. Dutch batsman Ryan Ten Doeschate, considered the best Associate batsman in the world right now, could put batsmen of full-member nations to shame. Highly regarded by counties and franchises across the world, he makes his living playing for Essex and has done contractual stints for teams in New Zealand, India, Australia and South Africa.

Most of the Associate players, even to this date, play as amateurs without professional contracts and take leave off work to play in these global competitions. We see in them, the original form of cricket; when cricket was played for the joy of the sport. We have witnessed school teachers, bakers and farmers represent their nations. We have discovered inside stories of a country ravaged by war and the hope inside refugee camps. We have discovered the problems of not having central contracts and financial security, evidenced by the regular poaching of Irish cricketers for the English team (Ed Joyce, Eoin Morgan and Boyd Rankin). We have discovered the sheer joy of just travelling and playing for your country.

Strong Associate nations will continue to add great value to cricket. The ICC should seriously reconsider allowing two more Associates to participate in the T20 World Cup. The Netherlands in particular, shouldn’t have been deprived of a chance to shine. Global competitions are the only incentives to the Associates; let’s not worry about the records or the so-called sanctity of the game. Sanctity of the game has more of a threat from power hungry cricket boards. Let all cricket lovers be touched by the stories the Associates bring to the ground.

Let us see if great performances will be witnessed again.

Read more by Hamza here

Hamza Ahmed Khan

Hamza Ahmed Khan

A risk consultant by profession, cricket-crazed human by heart and a wanderer by choice, Hamza breathes cricket and supports Dr. Aur Billa. He blogs at www.spatoutvicious.wordpress.com and tweets as @GumbyAKhan twitter.com/GumbyAKhan

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • EBS

    nice article .. Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/SAKsays Salman

    Interesting point hamza, the other day watching the spirited effort of Afghans, I guess adding a few more selected associate nations will be a viable option. Should be considered by the ICC IMHO.Recommend

  • Hamza

    I think the world has seen that associates will only improve with sustained presence in global events and getting more games against top quality sides. The results should not matter. Even if they fail badly against strong sides, that is a very important step towards development of the game in those regions. Recommend

  • QaimR

    great article…. its just for ICC to realise that as time goes by these genuine stalwarts age away only to be remembered as one of many already on the bandwagon…. look at Davison moved to Australia…. Dirk Nannes, EdJoyce, Eoin Morgan, Boyd Rankin and Dockrell are few of many as they just move on in their lives leaving behind their souls to die away as is the case of Kenya.

    Hope some day the men in boardroom realise what value these nations can add to.Recommend

  • murtaza

    i dont agree with the last part….we should have limited associates and ICC should make sure the very best compete is major tournaments….currently afghanistan looks an excellent inclusion in the whole scenarioRecommend

  • Jazib

    Great piece of writing. I have always had a certain attachment to the underdog associate teams and have been following them for a long time. One star batsman you forgot to mention was Scotland’s Gavin Hamilton – one of the first players that put the associate player be known as a force to be recognized with. I still remember Davison and O’Brien’s centuries – but I couldn’t recall a single Tendulkar century if you asked me to. Such is the out-of-the-book flair in the associate’s game.

    Also a good point to be noted about the sanctity of the gameRecommend

  • Hamza

    @Jazib:

    I didn’t forget Hamilton. I just thought of letting it go by … he was a terrific player for Scotland, but when he got his chances for the England line-up he just couldn’t perform at the same level. I remember the game against Pakistan in 99 WC, he was their best player : )

    Glad to know you follow the associates, now if only they were nurtured better. For instance, we seriously need to do away with the endless 7-odi bilateral series. Very easily, an associate team could be included for one-off games or as part of a triangular; its the best way they can develop. Afghanistan, in their first game against a threatening attack (SA in WC 2010) couldn’t handle it, but look at them now. Played Australia and Pakistan very well in recent one-days!Recommend

  • HamzaZak

    Mate i agree with u cent per cent… and love the comparision the indeed are the sparing bots and well on that in a way the peoples campions…Recommend

  • Faaltu mein khwam kha

    with the tough time, Afghans gave to India in the opener,my respect for associates has only increased a few notch. Recommend

  • TMK

    Nice article! :) never read such a thing!Recommend

  • Shais

    Well written :)… However I still support 12 teams instead of 14. I do agree that Associates should be given a chance but its even more important to not make the world cup boring. Out of these 12, 2 are associates and Zimbabwe and Bangladesh r as good as associates. Although recently Bangladesh has produced some good performances. So basically, its 8 teams battling for the TrophyRecommend

  • Khurram

    Nice article man, nice fight Afghanistan gave though.Recommend

  • http://frameratespixels.blogspot.com/ Faisal Shahzad

    Dirk Nannes is Aussie, Hamza..he got to play for Holland cuz of his Dutch mother…but he has represented Austrailia as well…

    But still a very good article. The Associates do add in lots of colour esp if they perform well. In my opinion Ireland is a really amazing Associates sides because of their players play for counties and do very well. Likes of Boyd Rankin and George Dockrell are even vying for a spot in the ENGLISH side!! Their batting is pretty good with some tough batsmen like Ed Joyce, Nial o Brien, and Paul Sterling. Their bowling is pretty decent. If the ICC and ECB can really back the Irish Board and setup a really good first class system, these Irish boys will improve ALOT. They already have the wood over the Bangladeshis, and soon they will start competeing with some of the other teams. I think Ireland should get a Test status in 5 years time. Till then the ICC should make them play proper series of ODIs against good sides and not just one off matches.

    Afghanistan has A LOT of potential. Their bowling unit looks really good. Shahpoor Zadran is REALLY quick. Take a look at all of their pace bowlers: they have very amazing built, have strong shoulders and can really hurl the ball. Their batting is a weak link, but some of their players can REALY whack a cricket ball. There are couple of batsmen who look very good in technique and attitude like Mohd. Nabi. They just to improve their fielding. I think here PCB can step in, and invite first class teams made up of these international players and make them part of our domestic sides. They will improve a bit.Recommend

  • Hamza

    Shais, then I would say make it compulsory for Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to go through the qualifying phase too … because the likes of Ireland, Afghanistan, Netherlands and Scotland always give a good fight to Ban and Zim and on occasions, beat them too !Recommend

  • Hamza

    @Faisal Shahzad:

    Yes, Nannes is Aussie but when did I deny that? He just represented Netherlands first, that’s all.

    And PCB has already invited Afghan teams on two occasions for their domestic competitions, albeit belatedly after the Indian board had tried to extend terms with the Afghan board.

    I think this has been made a consistent practice. Recommend

  • http://frameratespixels.blogspot.com/ Faisal Shahzad

    Not for the first class competition. PCB invited Afghan FC sides for the T20 tourneys. They should be invited to play the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and the Pentangular Cup as well. This is how they will improve. Playing proper FC with tough FC teamsRecommend

  • shahzad

    with the tough time, Afghans gave to India in the opener,my respect for associates has only increased a few notch.
    exactly u right said dear.
    please find latest updates T 20 cricket Worldcup computer tricks and tips free software and much more on shahzadahmad05.blogspot.comRecommend