April 05, 2007

Minnow Bhai
Clichés and the unknown in world cricket.

Minnow must be the most used, if not abused word in cricketing circles today. On last count, minnows’ usage was threatening that of ‘World Cup’, ‘Open’, ‘Caribbean’ and the ‘West Indies’. Here’s a sampler, from even before the tournament kicked off, not to mention, before the minnows kicked the biggies in the gut - ‘Beware of the minnows!’ ‘Don’t underestimate the minnows’ ‘Minnows can cause major upsets’ ‘Should ICC allow minnows to play in the World Cup?’ ‘16 teams but half are minnows!’ ‘Only four games without minnows in preliminary stage’ ‘Minnows must earn their place’ ‘All teams start off as minnows’

But as manure is to a garden, minnow is to this World Cup. It has enriched the tournament no end. And if world cricket is fortunate enough, these very minnows will add to the growth of world cricket. At a hefty price though – with the elimination of Pakistan by minnows, Ireland, and possibly, India courtesy minnows, Bangladesh, to be confirmed after a few zombie days and sleepless nights. But then, maybe world cricket needed the minnows to pull out these weeds?

In sport what doesn’t augur well for one team, promises to be payday for another. And when a minnow upsets an arguably stronger team, you always hear someone saying, ‘the telltale signs were all there’ ‘these guys are playing beyond their expiry date’ And possibly, with time, ‘Wake up call’ and ‘heads will roll’ will become as abused as ‘minnows’ once were.

Or for that matter, the ‘underdog’ or ‘dark horses’. Only in the minnows case they are meant to be bottom of the barrel ‘underdogs’ and darker than night ‘dark horses’. Their purpose in the World Cup isn’t even defined – why else would the ICC website list the supposed Super 8 itinerary without any minnows but with Pakistan and India and the other 6 top ranked teams. Remorse. No India-Pakistan game. Hell, there’s always Toronto. For, after the World Cup debacles it appears unlikely if the two teams will be allowed to play in their own backyards any time soon.

‘It’s just a game’- the rationalists, intelligentsia, agnostics, hermits and fixers will call out. ‘It’s much more than a game’ - the millions back home in Ireland and Bangladesh will be thumping their chests. Ironic, but when one team becomes history, the other makes it. That’s something that usually happens with minnows. With the seasoned, and often jaded biggies, it’s just overhauling bigger scores, hitting bigger sixes.

Is there something new to be discovered? In India’s defeat and Pakistan’s loss, will these two former champions ‘reinvent the wheel’ Will they be forced to shed their senior statesman, many of whom could be made ‘scapegoats’. Will coaches find their contracts tersely terminated? What, with Bob Woolmer’s mysterious death, one illustrious cricketing career has already ended prematurely. Uncannily, almost like that of his friend’s Hansie Cronje.

Written on March 18th, 2007

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