Lights out for weak England
England, one of the revered names in cricket and one of the ICCs Big 3, have fallen, and they have fallen to Bangladesh, one of the full members but also one of the least respected names in the game.
It happened on Monday, March 9, in Adelaide, Australia, it happened when Bangladesh scored 275 for eight and England crashed for 260 to lose by 15 runs, and it meant that Bangladesh were in the quarter-finals of the World Cup and England were heading home.
More important, although England lost to the Netherlands twice before in World T20 tournaments, and even though they lost to Ireland and Bangladesh in World Cup 2011, this represents their worst ever performance in limited-over cricket.
For one of the big boys of cricket, for one of the three teams selected to rule cricket for cricket's own good according to the three, their performance in the World Cup was shocking and embarrassing.
Not only did England lose to Bangladesh and exited the World Cup with their tails between their legs, but they also failed to win a match against their equals, against Australia, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka. And they lost them badly at that, by 111 runs, by eight wickets with 37.4 deliveries still to go, and by nine wickets.
England's only victories were against Scotland and Afghanistan.
The loss, and the early exit, in the company of Scotland and Afghanistan, Zimbabawe, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and one of Pakistan, the West Indies, or Ireland is not only humiliating: it has also sentenced them to a long period of soul-searching, of looking into the structure and state of their much vaunted and sought-after County Championships, and into the minds of those they see and glorify as their national
For many moons now, and throughout this tournament, England's cricketers, most of them, appeared not only below the standard required for the limited-over version of cricket but also scared, timid, and unsure.
They appeared afraid to play how they can play, or how they should be able to play.
England, however, are not alone. The performance of Pakistan and the West Indies, although by now their fate should be known, were almost as embarrassing.
Pakistan lost to India and the West Indies and defeated Zimbabwe, UAE, and South Africa while recovering to jostle with Ireland and the West Indies, who lost to Ireland, defeated Pakistan and Zimbabwe, and lost to South Africa and India, for one of the two remaining places.
While it is true that Pakistan were without Younis Khan for most of the time and without Mohammad Hafeez and Saeed Ajmal for all the time, and the West Indies were without Sunil Narine for the entire tournament, those missing players is not an excuse, as good as they may be.
The West Indies, following their own surprising and embarrassing loss to Ireland, were nearly as bad as England in the limited-over game. The main difference, perhaps the only difference, is that on some days the West Indies are good enough, bold and powerful enough, to beat the best of them.
Pakistan and the West Indies, had better beware, however, for although they both probably made it this time around, and could rubbish the odds by going on to win the tournament, they were just a shade better than England,
Unlike England, they played one or two good matches.
Pakistan and the West Indies need to groom good cricketers, really good cricketers, from now on. The Associates, or the "Minnows" as they are called, are moving from strength to strength, they see the mountain top and also the pot at the end of the rainbow, and they are also playing for their country
It appears to be all for one and one for all where they are concerned.
While for Bangladesh, Tamin Iqbal and Shakib All Hasan looked cool, calm, and well in control throughout the tournament, Mahmudullah and Rahim looked cool, calm, and in control against England, and Mashrafe Mortaza, Rubel Hossain, and Shakib bowled with all the confidence in the world, only Jos Butler, and to an extent Chris Woakes, looked the part for England.
And when one remembers the confident batting of William Porterfield, Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce, and Niall O'Brien of Ireland, Kyle Coetzer of Scotland, Samiullah Shemwari of Afghanistan, and Shaiman Anwar of UAE, and the quality bowling of left-arm spinner George Dockrell of Ireland, the pace of Josh Davey of Scotland, and Hamid Hassan, Dawlat Zadran, and Shapoor Zadran of Afghanistan and think of their possibilities if they, or their successors, blossom and bloom, the future of the Associates seems bright and beautiful.
Zimbabwe, one of the lesser lights of the Full members, also looked good once again even though they failed to qualify. Their batting, led by Chamu Chibhabha, Hamilton Masakadza, and Brendan Taylor, and their bowling, spearheaded by Tinashe Panyangara, Tendai Chatara, and Solomon Mire, showed signs of a return to the days when players the likes of Andy Flower, Grant Flower, Guy Whittal, and Alistair Campbell, Henry Olonga, Paul Strang, and Heath Streak wore the red cap.
By now, the eight teams for the expected fireworks in the quarter-finals will be known, with six of them, New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, India, and South Africa, getting in with time to spare.
Last night (local time), three teams, Pakistan, the West Indies, and Ireland, battled it out for the last two places. Only two will have made it and the other, like England, will be on their way home.
If the West Indies beat the UAE and Pakistan defeated Ireland it will be Pakistan along with one of the West Indies and Ireland based on net run rate. If, however, the West Indies beat the UAE and Ireland pulled off another ambush, the eighth spot would have been decided also on net run-rate between Pakistan and the West Indies.
If there is a no-result in the Pakistan/Ireland match, both teams will go through, and God forbid, if, however, the West Indies lost to the UAE and to be knocked out of the tournament, all hell would break lose in the West Indies, just as it did a few days ago in England.