The Associates need all the help they can get: forget KP, the fate of the Associates in the World Cup is the axing we need to be concerned about.
During the World Cup, they showed amazing form throughout. Afghanistan, Scotland, and the UAE all troubled Full Member nations.
Ireland beat two of them.
So here’s my top five current Associate cricketers. Several great cricketers have missed out – Khurram Khan, Shaiman Anwar and Mohammad Tauqir of the UAE, Peter Borren, Wesley Baressi and Ahsan Malik of the Dutch. Mohammad Nabi and Samiullah Shenwari of Afghanistan have a right to feel aggrieved.
Even Kevin O’Brien, Ed Joyce, Paul Stirling and George Dockrell miss out. And I love George Dockrell.
I’ve got two batsmen, a keeper, and two bowlers.
WILLIAM PORTERFIELD (Ireland)
If William Porterfield had scored a duck in every innings of the 2015 World Cup, his influence would still have been huge. On Ireland, and on the Associate cricket world.
His leadership and captaincy was exceptional, making use of sometimes faltering pace-bowling reserves. But it was as a leader off-field that he made his mark, being the figurehead of the Associate cause.
“If you cut World Cups from the agenda,” Porterfield queried, “then what’s the point really in us keeping going?”
And even if his guts and leadership for the Associate cause overshadowed his batting for some, I still remember his beautiful 67 against India and stoic 107 against Pakistan with great relish.
His batting stats to date have reflected poorly on his true ability, but if recent form is anything to go by, those numbers will improve quickly.
Now the County season has started, he has to snap back to Warwickshire duties. Let’s hope he keeps in the same form and continues his brilliance. Onwards and upwards, Purdy!
KYLE COETZER (Scotland)
Losing the Scotland captaincy may have been the best thing to happen to Kyle Coetzer’s career.
As tempted as I was to include Coetzer’s Scotland teammate Matt Machan in the second batsman’s role, scoring 156 against Bangladesh is something not even the Pakistan ODI team could manage at the moment.
That knock pushed Coetzer’s ODI average over 40, remarkable for anyone, lest an Associate. Sadly Scotland’s recent lack of ODI status has hindered Coetzer’s ability, but his success in the County Cricket circuit for many years has been testament to his quality.
One of the main things noticeable about Coetzer’s game is a capability to change tempos in a way that evades most from world cricket’s second rung.
Hopefully he gets himself back in the Northamptonshire firsts this season and hammers a few more runs. The more world class Associates there are, the more the pressure mounts on the ICC.
NIALL O’BRIEN (Ireland)
Anyone who knows me knows of my thoughts on Niall O’Brien.
Ask me who the greatest Associate player ever is, and my reaction will be something like this:
“Bart King, definitely…ah, actually…no, I think Nobi might clinch it.”
One eyed perhaps, but O’Brien’s place as the best Associate keeper ever can only be challenged by Ashish Bagai.
And although O’Brien doesn’t keep much for Ireland anymore, batting in the top order and prowling in close instead, his glovework for Leicestershire remains above top-notch.
His batting, meanwhile, is going from strength to strength. A not-out 79 lead Ireland to a victory over the West Indies that none of us will forget.
His 75 against the Indians meanwhile, was a joy to behold. I’ll always be proud to say that I was on the Seddon Park banks amongst thousands of noisy Indians, whole-heartedly yelling my support to O’Brien while he smote bowlers with impunity.
I lost my voice towards the end of the game, in no small part thanks to wrecking my vocal chords on the self-confessed pipsqueak’s big six, launched off Ravi Ashwin, that took him to 50.
We probably won’t see Nobi in a World Cup again – so thanks for the great times, three World Cups of Irish spirit, guts and success.
JOSH DAVEY (Scotland)
Coming into the 2015 Cricket World Cup, Josh Davey was a County second-XI trundle struggling to find a home.
Davey had performed well already in internationals however, and by the time Scotland were eliminated from the tournament he’d built a sizable reputation.
At one point, he was the highest wicket-taker in the World Cup. Three wickets against New Zealand, two against both Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Three again against Sri Lanka – the wickets being Dilshan, Sangakarra and Jayawardene – and then an admirable performance under fire in a big loss to Australia.
Although still plying his trade for Somerset’s seconds, one hopes Davey shows the form and talent exposed during the World Cup. Hopefully, by the end of the season Josh Davey will be running through County sides with ease.
And let’s not forget – that ODI bowling average still sits under 20, with nearly 50 wickets under his belt.
SHAPOOR ZADRAN (Afghanistan)
I once had to write a small piece on Zadran – it was meant to be artistic, a bit flowery, for want of a better word. But nothing else I can write sums Zadran up so well.
“Wasim Akram wasn’t an overly tall man – although, at a touch over six foot, by no means short – but he took large, bounding strides when he ran in to bowl. His left arm – the bowling arm – came over in an indescribably cyclical motion, almost spherical, but was also rather whippy. Shapoor Zadran, meanwhile, is a cricketing yeti – tall, hairy, scary. He runs in like Wasim (albeit with correspondingly larger strides), and delivers the ball with a great torrent of hair, arm and body. It’s the same spherical delivery of Akram’s, but without the whip.
Zadran – one of three in the Afghanistan side – has a personality to match his unique appearance. His attempted knee-first slide after the miraculous Afghani victory over the Scots was a moment to witness. He discovered, quite abruptly, that pads don’t assist such activities. He fell into the ground with a great shower of locks.
The awkward leg-side shovel, the removing of the bright red helmet to reveal head-and-hairy-accessories twice the size of the helmet it was concealed under, the roar, the aeroplane, the slide.
Who else but Zadran?”