Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Ireland in hot pursuit of Full Member status

Ireland have announced an ambitious plan to ascend to Full Member status within the ICC. The Irish will seek to become the ICC's eleventh Full Member nation, and the first to rise from the Associate ranks since Bangladesh in 2000.

Warren Deutrom, Cricket Ireland's chief executive, has sent a letter to the ICC stating his board's intention to apply for Full Membership - a potential pathway to Test cricket - and to seek clarification on the process. The ICC have since informed Ireland of the council's criteria and expectations, and the matter will now be discussed at the next chief executives' meeting, scheduled for later this month.

"There's a long way to go," Deutrom told Cricinfo's Switch Hit podcast. "Traditionally, applications have taken two, three or more years. There are clearly a large number of hoops we have to jump through. In terms of challenges that are facing us, yes, there is clearly an awful lot of work we need to do just to fulfill the compliance and existing criteria.

"It perhaps sets in motion a process that allows others to see the levels they need to reach in order to fulfill the same ambitions. It shouldn't be easy. Test cricket is regarded as the pinnacle of the game and it's quite right that those trying to ascend to Test cricket, or just Full Membership without necessarily involving Test cricket, have to ensure that they are coming up to some pretty rigorous criteria."

Ireland's cricketers have mounted a strong case for consideration as a Full Member nation with a string of solid performances in the four-day, 50 and 20-over formats, but still face a difficult task convincing existing members of the political and commercial benefits that their elevation would bring to the game. Unlike Bangladesh, the most recently-elected Full Member, Ireland does not boast a large population and player base to draw from. Bangladesh also provided India and its allies with another regional partner - and vote - at the ICC table. Ireland's introduction could potentially upset that balance.

The difficulties encountered by Ireland's cricketing administrators were highlighted earlier this year when a television rights package could not be negotiated for the home ODI against an England side less than a week removed from winning the Ashes. Attendances for other international matches have been modest, as cricket struggles to gain a foothold in a nation already absorbed by Gaelic football, hurling, football and rugby. Despite such obstacles, Cricket Ireland has evolved commercially to the point that ICC funding only accounts for 30% of the board's total revenue.

If the ICC is serious about its long-espoused aim of expanding the game beyond its traditional strongholds, Ireland might be in with a chance. Full Member funding would better equip Ireland to retain its top players - the defections of Ed Joyce and Eoin Morgan to England were evidence of Associate cricket's glass ceiling - and offer a progression path for other aspiring nations to follow.

"In terms of television, there is no doubt whatsoever that that was an issue last year," Deutrom said. "We had television for our game in 2006 when Ireland played England and in 2007 when India and South Africa were here. We didn't get a broadcaster for 2009. I think there were some financial problems involved in that. I think the problem by and large, from what broadcasters say to me, is that they don't like to do deals on a one-by-one basis. They prefer to package things up. If we were in a situation whereby we were embedded in the Future Tours Programme, then we would have sufficient home cricket to be able to go out and talk to another broadcaster.

"From a political perspective, I would regard many people on the chief executives' committee and the board as extremely fair-minded. I hope this doesn't come across sounding naive, but I think the decision should hopefully be made on its merits and not on the basis of any political alliances."

Ireland's recent performances have raised hopes that they could prove competitive at the game's elite level. In 41 one-day internationals since 2006, the Irish have won 17 matches, highlighted by their three-wicket triumph over Pakistan at the 2007 World Cup. Ireland won eight consecutive completed matches against Scotland, Kenya and Canada before suffering a narrow three-run defeat to England in their most recent ODI. That sequence included victory in the World Cup qualification tournament in South Africa earlier this year, which they capped with an emphatic nine-wicket demolition of Canada in the final.

Ireland have proven similarly competitive in the 20-over ranks, winning four of their eight completed matches including a six-wicket victory over Bangladesh at the World Twenty20 in June that propelled them into the Super Eights stage of the tournament. They are currently vying for their fourth consecutive Intercontinental Cup crown, and remain unbeaten in four-day competition since 2004.

"The key area where we see the strength of our proposal would be the performance on field of the senior men's squad over the last couple of years," Deutrom said. "In all three forms of the game we've proven ourselves above our associate rivals.

"If you think about the reasons why (players) are going (to England), it's because they want to be as good as they can be. They want to be able to find the vehicles and the forums to be able to express their abilities. In that way, we need to make sure that our players are aware of our ambitions. If we just happen to bump along as an associate and say, 'We're the No.1 associate now, that's all we're going to be forever,' I think we're going to lose more and more players. Our ambitions are surely to make sure that cricket is as successful as possible in Ireland ... and to that extent we need to make sure that our players are aware that that is exactly where we're going.

"Even if it's obviously too late for the likes of Eoin Morgan and Ed Joyce, what we're saying to the next rung of Irish players coming through is: we are ambitious, we are interested in going for Full Membership but it may take some time, and we are doing our very best to put in a contract system that allows you to consider playing cricket as a career in Ireland in the same way as you might want to play cricket for England and to complement your county career."

Sparkling Pandey kicks off season in style

Karnataka 372 for 5 (Pandey 194*, Dravid 97) v
Manish Pandey kicked off the 2009-10 Ranji Trophy Super League in style with an unbeaten 194 off 238 deliveries, his maiden first-class century, against an Uttar Pradesh comprising RP Singh, Piyush Chawla and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. And it wasn't all fair going in Meerut: he joined Rahul Dravid in the 13th over of the day with Karnataka at 27 for 3. All three medium-pacers - RP, Bhuvneshwar and ICL returnee Shalabh Srivastava - had taken a wicket each by then, including Robin Uthappa's for zero.

That was the last piece of joy for a long time, though, as Dravid and Pandey punished UP with a 273-run fourth-wicket stand, Dravid contributing 97 before getting run out. Bhuvneshwar followed that wicket with another quick one but at 327 for 5 Pandey took charge again and saw the day through with an unbeaten 45-run stand with B Akhil off just 8.1 overs. One hundred and fourteen of Pandey's runs came in fours and a six. RP and Chawla had a disappointing day, managing just one wicket between them, for 146 runs in 32 overs.

Delhi 300 for 2 (Dhawan 122*, Bhatia 70*, Chabra 65) v Baroda
Shikhar Dhawan's patient unbeaten century in Vadodara took Delhi to a position of strength against an attack missing Irfan Pathan. Dhawan batted through the day and shared two important partnerships with half-centurions Gaurav Chabra and Rajat Bhatia to carry Delhi to 300. This was Dhawan's seventh first-class century, and Chabra's second half-century in his second first-class match.

After their captain Aakash Chopra fell for an uncharacteristic 18-ball 21, Dhawan and Chabra batted sensibly, adding 134 for the second wicket. Murtuja Vahora managed to break the partnership before tea but Bhatia and Dhawan would make sure that would be the last success for Baroda. At stumps, Bhatia looked set for what could be a 10th first-class century.

Bengal 52 for 2 trail Maharashtra 179 (Ansari 52, Bose 5-67, Dinda 3-65) by 127 runs
A sensational opening burst followed by the wicket of the well-set Azhar Ansari gave Ranadeb Bose his 22nd first-class five-for, and gave Bengal an opportunity to push for a first-innings lead against Maharashtra and perhaps an outright victory.

In the morning session Bose ripped the heart out of Maharashtra's batting line-up, reducing them to 53 for 4. Ashok Dinda followed on those strikes to put Maharashtra in further trouble, at 110 for 7, but that's when Ansari, making his debut and batting at No. 8, started a comeback along with Kiran Adhav. Left-arm spinner Shibsagar Singh broke that 49-run partnership and Bose came back to dismiss Ansari and complete his five-for.

Bengal lost Deep Dasgupta, making his comeback from the ICL, in the second over. Ansari capped a good day with bowling figures of 7-5-7-1, the wicket being that of Arindam Das who scored 38 of Bengal's 52 runs. Wriddhiman Saha and Manoj Tiwary were in the middle at stumps.

Group A
Punjab 242 for 9 (Ravi Inder 104, Agarkar 4-41, Zaheer 3-45) v Mumbai
A defiant Ravi Inder Singh, with his fourth century in just 14 first-class matches, kept defending champions Mumbai, whose attack includes Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar and Ramesh Powar, at bay, although Mumbai would like to believe they have the upper hand having taken nine wickets on the opening day. Things could have been much worse but for Ravi Inder: the next best score was 30 not out by Manpreet Gony.

Zaheer and Agarkar reduced Punjab to 133 for 5 before Ravi Inder rallied the tail around. He added 45 with the debutant Gaurav Gambhir for the sixth wicket, 22 for the seventh with Rahul Sharma and 33 for the eighth with Gony. Agarkar, though, had the final say, dismissing Ravi Inder and Harmeet Singh in quick succession, and handing Mumbai the ascendancy.

Railways 242 for 4 (Bangar 111*, Fazal 70) 242 for 4 v Tamil Nadu
Sanjay Bangar, with his 10th first-class century, and Faiz Fazal, who has moved from Vidarbha to Railways, kept Tamil Nadu joyless for a healthy part of the day at the Karnail Singh Stadium in Delhi. After an 80-run second-wicket stand, R Ashwin took two quick wickets to bring Railways down to 139 for 3 but the old firm of Bangar and Yere Goud thwarted the charge there itself.

Goud was his stubborn self, scoring 14 runs off 100 balls in a partnership of 76 runs. Meanwhile Bangar went along fluently, striking at more than 50 runs per 100 balls, and hitting 14 fours and two sixes in his innings. L Balaji stayed wicketless for 16 overs.

Gujarat 237 for 7 (Parthiv 83, Dhiraj Singh 4-88) v Orissa
Parthiv Patel rescued Gujarat from a precarious 89 for 4 with an attacking 83 but Gujarat went on to lose the initiative after Parthiv's wicket on a day that momentum shifted this way and that. Debasis Mohanty and Dhiraj Singh gave Orissa a perfect start before Parthiv counterattacked.

Along with Rujul Bhatt, Parthiv added 89 for the fifth wicket. Parthiv attacked and Bhatt consolidated as the game threatened to slip out of Orissa's hands. But in the final session, Dhiraj removed both the batsmen within 16 runs of each other. A run-out followed, and Gujarat were struggling at 203 for 7. To provide a final twist to the day, Ashraf Makda swung his bat merrily to end up on an unbeaten 31 off 23 balls, including four sixes.

Hyderabad 237 for 6 (Abhinav 70*, Malik 2-58) v Himachal Pradesh
Scorecard An unbeaten 70 from wicketkeeper Abhinav Kumar lifted Hyderabad from 74 for 4 to a respectable score by the end of the first day in Ahmedabad. Swing bowlers Vikramjeet Malik and Ashok Thakur got Himachal off to a usual good start. Himachal were also helped by a run-out early on. Only T Suman managed to impress in the top order, falling short of fifty by five runs.

Abhinav and Arjun Yadav, though, wrested the momentum with a 47-run fifth-wicket stand. But it was the partnership between Abhinav and Syed Quadri that truly brought Hyderabad back into the contest. They added 77 for the sixth wicket, Quadri missing the half-century by three runs. Another stubborn stand for the seventh wicket followed: Abhinav and MP Arjun were yet to be separated and they added 39 runs in 21.4 overs.

All-round Afridi leads rout

Pakistan 287 for 9 (Latif 64, Afridi 70, Kamran 67*) beat New Zealand 149 (Redmond 52, Vettori 38, Afridi 2-46) by 138 runs
Who needs the captaincy when you are in this kind of form? Shahid Afridi's supposed desire to lead Pakistan in ODIs and his rift with captain Younis Khan has dominated the chat in Pakistan since the Champions Trophy, and his all-round performance tonight to dismantle New Zealand - along with the captain's duck - will do nothing to quell further talk. But why burden yourself with leadership hassles when you can turn in the kind of man-mountain performance Afridi did, first resuscitating Pakistan from a disastrous start with the bat and then nearly taking a hat-trick as his side romped home to a 138-run win at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Afridi's day had begun halfway through Pakistan's innings, when having won the toss, they were making a mess of things. Shane Bond had bowled an opening five-over spell of refreshingly attacking intent, of real cunning, occasional pace and much guile. Each ball he bowled, it seemed, was geared only to take wickets, not save runs. With the rest of Bond's colleagues chipping in, Afridi turned up to find his side limping around at 75 for 4.

Much like a magician he turned it into an ominous 287 for 9 with his innings opening up the floodgates for his lower order, in particular Kamran Akmal, who plundered New Zealand relentlessly at the death. In all, 137 runs came in the last 15 overs and 206 off the last 25, and Afridi was the culprit.

It was a calm hand by his standards, pretty brutal by any other, and the kind of innings Twenty20 has brought out of him. In its entirety it was mature, particularly in the realisation that he need not go at it helter-skelter from the off and that if his forearms are somehow aligned to his brain then mountains can be moved.

Indeed there was never a miscue or hoick to begin, just urgent nudges and grunted pushes to revive Pakistan's comatose run-rate. Once Khalid Latif, drafted in as opener, pulled a boundary for nearly 12 overs in the 29th, he freed Afridi's mind. Soon Afridi was dancing out to hoist three sixes in two overs of spin from Daniel Vettori and Nathan McCullum.

The flurry of boundaries is an Afridi trait, but once out of the way he reverted - pleasingly - to taking well-placed singles and doubles, managing the occasional boundary. Shane Bond was muscled over long-off for one such, to bring up his fifty off 37 balls, which was still sedate for him. He went soon after biffing a couple more, but not before, with a tranquil Latif, having revived Pakistan. Latif looked as threatening as a butterfly, without being as pretty, but he stuck around for what was a valuable fifty. And he was at his most effective when Afridi was going for it, simply because he ensured that Afridi got much of the strike.

Akmal, relieved of opening and for Afridi's ballast, gleefully looted runs over the death, putting on 86 with Abdul Razzaq in just over seven overs - driving, scything and squeezing a parade of sixes and fours en route to a stunning 43-ball 67.

With the momentum, Pakistan's pacemen worked their way through the top order, crippling the chase at the very off. Umar Gul may have been the main beneficiary in terms of wickets, but Mohammad Aamer's opening spell - much older than the 17-year-old body and mind that produced it - was the key. At whippy pace, he gnawed away at both Brendon McCullum and Aaron Redmond over after over, regularly beating them for pace and inward movement and ultimately setting the tone of who was to boss the chase.

Inevitably, though, Afridi had to have the final word. Daniel Vettori and Aaron Redmond had gamely kept New Zealand within a sniff, though Redmond's ponderous fifty - unlike Latif's earlier - did not have anyone going crazy enough around it. After an indifferent, hurried first spell, Afridi got the pesky Vettori to drag on an attempted sweep, and with his next ball trapped Nathan McCullum. Another umpire might have even given the hat-trick - incorrect as it may have been - but denying Afridi in this kind of mood took some standing. New Zealand found it beyond them.

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