As the Mind the Windows team previews each of the teams competing for cricketing glory in the World T20, Devon Mace starts off the series by looking at the Associates — Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Ireland, the Netherlands, Oman, and Scotland.
The World T20, just as in 2014, has followed a format of mild condescension towards the smaller and associate cricketing nations. Where the Big Eight play in the Super Ten and in front of Mega Crowds, earning Whole Lotta Coin, the likes of Oman, Hong Kong and the Dutch are unlikely to progress past the preliminaries.
There’s many views that can be taken on whether the current World T20 format helps or hinders associate nations, but one thing is for sure – they’re there, and although eight sides (only six associate) vie for two slots in the preliminary round, none of them are going to roll over.
Who to Watch
With six associate sides, plenty of high profile players appear – 2007 World Cup hero Boyd Rankin, 2011 World Cup superstar Kevin O’Brien, 2015 World Cup standout Josh Davey are all key men. Alumni of World T20 past, men like Stephan Myburgh, Ahsan Malik and Shapoor Zadran, make their returns to the fields of former glories.
But T20 is a format that likes to create new heroes. Predicting who those will be takes a large degree of pot luck, but there are players who step forward as obvious candidates.
George Dockrell (Ireland) has been around for a long time now – times have changed since he missed an ODI against Australia through school exams (which he told MTW in November 2014 that he did manage to pass). His left-arm spin has turned heads, but turns the ball too, and could prove decisive in the subcontinent. [Achilles’ Heel: Myburgh’s in his group again]
From the next-door island, Kyle Coetzer (Scotland) has been around even longer. At 31, he’s no newbie, but he still has the ability to hit the ball a very long way – few New Zealanders have forgotten those nervous moments back in 2009. [Achilles’ Heel: Cricket Scotland have a habit of accidentally leaving him out of squads]
Jumping continents, Mark Chapman (Hong Kong) has been creating waves in both his country of birth, and his country of residence. Regarded by some as talented enough to be a future New Zealand Test prospect, the Hong Kong-born Chapman has had far more success for his associate nation. An ODI hundred on debut, as well as a List A 157 for Auckland against Central Districts pay testament to his capability, and if he finds the right role (balancing hundreds with left-arm spin) he could prove a match-winner. [Achilles’ Heel: facing Seth Rance might be easy; Shapoor Zadran less so]
Choosing three here was easy. Matt Machan (Scotland) isn’t an unknown quantity any longer, but at 25 certainly has youth on his side. He hasn’t been able to consistently replicate the performances that we’ve seen him manage, but his performances against a New Zealand XI, and then against New Zealand and Australia during the World Cup, have affirmed his class.
Moving into the subcontinent for the first time in this piece, Rashid Khan (Afghanistan) looks about ten years older than he is, but the 17 year-old leg-spinner has followed his idol Shahid Afridi in at least one way – a remarkably young international debut. His talent has been shown already at international level, so one hopes that he can keep his head on such a big stage.
Fellow spinner Andy McBrine (Ireland) is only 22, despite it feeling like he’s been around much longer than two years. His stats – especially in 50-over cricket – are uninspiring, but McBrine’s talent for slowing the batsmen down was apparent during last year’s World Cup. He and George Dockrell form a vital duo, and with McBrine adding something with the bat and in the field as well.
There’s an Irishman – Niall O’Brien, who has been such an important cricketer for the Irish. Gloveman, number six, first drop, he’s been willing to fill any role required. At 34, it’s hard to know how much longer he’ll keep going. His retirement will be a huge blow. He’s joined by skipper William Porterfield, younger brother Kevin O’Brien, and quicks Tim Murtagh and Boyd Rankin in the seniority stakes.
The Dutch have Wesley Barresi – hardly senile at 31, but a man who has had plenty on his shoulders since taking over Jeroen Smits’ spot behind the stumps. His impact on the Netherlands team is heavily understated.
A duo of Afghanis – Shapoor Zadran and Hamid Hassan. Both are 28, but they – apart from Mohammad Nabi – amount to the most seniority the Afghanis can muster.
Jesse Ryder Award for most un-athletic cricketer: Andrew Poynter (Ireland)
Rangana Herath’s red-headed twin; also right-handed. Also doesn’t bowl. Only just beats his brother.
Dirk Nannes Trophy for most dubious associate: Roelof van der Merwe (Netherlands)
Tom Cooper, Logan van Beek, Michael Rippon, the Dutch candidates were plenty.
Brad Hogg Cup for bizarre comebacks: Ryan Campbell (Hong Kong)
He’s back, he’s bowling (?), and he’s playing for the wrong country. Keep the defibrillator ready.
Neil Carter Trophy for random Scottish South Africans: Con de Lange (Scotland)
175 wickets in South Africa, a jammy County career, now Scottish at 34. Beautiful.
Mark Vermuelen Shield for racist outbursts: Vacant
Majid Haq still isn’t back in the team.
Anshuman Rath Cup for Hong Kong 16 year-olds: Waqas Khan (Hong Kong)
Following in the footsteps of Rath, Mark Chapman, Jamie Atkinson, Aizaz Khan…
Rob Nicol Trophy for you’re still here? Calum MacLeod (Scotland)
Does he chuck the ball or does he chuck the bat at the ball? Who knows, but he’s still here.
1980s Porno Award for greatest moustache: Jatinder Singh (Oman)