The Qualifiers stage of the T20 World Cup can easily fly under the radar for the casual cricket watcher, but fanatics are treated to arguably the most intriguing spectacle of cricket at the tournament.
The stories that underlie the action on the field speak of the struggle of playing for associate nations, thriving with less financial backing and add context when teams take on more established cricketing nations.
The tournament’s first four games have yielded three victories for the “underdogs” as three Test playing nations all lost their first game of the qualifying stage.
Firstly, Namibia defeated Asia Cup champions Sri Lanka by 55 runs, Scotland then took down the West Indies by 42 runs and Zimbabwe defeated Test-playing Ireland by 31 runs.
In the only ‘expected’ result, the manner was unexpected as the Netherlands laboured in a chase of just 112 against UAE.
The disappointment, in respect to the development of the global game, is the International Cricket Council (ICC) did very little to give it much of a platform to thrive.
However, the matches still captured the imagination of many around the world and could have provided extra motivation for the shocks that were to come.
Venues should not be an exaggerated point.
History unfortunately dictates that the demand for these games will be less than the more established teams.
However, the appearance of support for these nations was evident, while Scotland opened their tournament by smashing two-time T20 title winners, the West Indies in Hobart.
A considerably larger venue, the Gabba, hosted unimportant warm up games between India and Australia and then England and Pakistan.
More pressingly is the amount of cricket these nations get to play. The talent is obvious, but the exposure is not.
Scotland only played two T20 internationals since last year’s World Cup, both of which against New Zealand in July.
Calum MacLeod bemoaned this in the aftermath of Monday’s victory.
He has spoken well this week, both on the Outside Edge podcast and in the post-match interview, on the fact that it would not be a surprise if any associate nations beat more well-known teams.
This is vitally important, words like ‘minnows’ and ‘underdogs’ are no longer representative of the facts. Attitudes need to change.
The disparity between the teams is no longer anything to do with quality. The victories in this World Cup have nothing to do with luck.
They have been calculated, bat first and put a score on the board and then on tiring pitches bowl to plans and adjust to the dimensions of the ground.
Most important to all the victories has been fielding, Namibia, Scotland and even Zimbabwe, who were taking slip catches deep into the powerplay, have made use of the chances they create.
If the first two days of action are anything to go by then this World Cup will be well worth a watch.
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Featured image credit: Chris Schmich https://www.flickr.com/photos/schmich/2608334414