Japan v Norway at Gaborone (Oval 2), ICC World Cricket League Division Seven

According to its wikipedia entry, the tournament above, happening right now in Botswana, is part of the World Cricket League which, according to its wikipedia page is a “series of one day international tournaments for national teams without Test status.”

The rankings are based loosely on each nation’s performance in the 2007 World Cup (if applicable) and the league features a promotion and relegation system where the top two teams from this tournament, for instance, will be promoted to Division Six and the bottom two teams demoted to Division Eight.

The ultimate goal, again according to the wikis, is World Cup Qualification for Associate nations, which I think is just wonderful.  The League has a rather complicated format (I read it twice and still do not get it) but it sounds like the ICC is at least attempting to not only bring more nations into the World Cup lottery, but to provide more nations with ODI status.

In the end, it seems, the ICC has done something right for once.  Three cheers for the World Cricket League!

The final, the 3rd place match, and the 5th place match are all on May 8th, and right now it looks as though Kuwait and Nigeria are in line for promotion, though Kuwait bloody CRUSHED Nigeria this morning, opening the door for Germany or even Botswana, who are playing each other right now.  I guess I know which match I will be following at the office today!

Until tomorrow, greetings from Botswana:

Sibtain Raza and Hisham Mirza after their match-winning stand, Norway v Kuwait, ICC World Cricket League Division Seven, Gaborone, Botswana, May 2, 2011

Ragama Cricket Club v Chilaw Marians Cricket Club at Colombo (Moors), Premier League Tournament Tier A

Yeah, I don’t know either.

And I did promise talk of the lower tier international tournament, as well as a recap of the County 40s, but as I mentioned over on Twitter last night, I had the opportunity to watch a whole lot of cricket highlights on the Internet…FOR FREE!

First of all, I watch some more Sussex highlights on Sussex TV.  I have already reviewed their new and improved video page, but the one thing that really struck me while watching highlights of their recent County Championship matches was just the sheer amount of stamina required to be an elite batsmen.  The best ones bat for HOURS at a time, facing 200+ deliveries.  Every D League softball player will tell you that 15 minutes in the batting cage is a workout, but imagine being out there ALL DAY.  It is shocking the level of conditioning that would require.  I think I forget that Cricketers are not just good athletes, they are in world class physical shape.

I also watched two full length highlights of two IPL matches on the IndiaTimes’ YouTube channel.  For whatever reason, this was the first time I had really explored the channel, probably because we only get delayed highlights here in the States and most of the time I am well aware of the outcomes before I have a chance to watch the highlights.

The picture quality is just wonderful.  I blew it up to full screen on the iMac and was impressed by how clear it was.  The audio was perfect, too.  You really got a feel for the atmosphere, which I really appreciated.

The long form highlights are 25+ minutes in length, so you really do get a chance to see the majority of the overs.  All the wickets, all the sixes, most of the fours, all the big plays are represented.  They do jump from ball to ball to ball a little too quickly, but I am not going to complain too much.

Wait, yes I am.

Their are commercials every three or four minutes or so.  Now they are only 15 seconds long, but it is a JARRING interruption of the video.  And it is the same commercial over and over and over and over again.   It is torture.

In the end, it was nice to get a feel for the IPL.   The cheerleaders, the pop music, the uniforms all rubbed me the wrong way, but the crowds were blisteringly loud the entire time – a real ruckus atmosphere under the bright lights.  I could definitely see why players enjoy the IPL – it is cricket for rock stars.

Tomorrow: thoughts on the lower tier tournament, I promise.

West Indies v Pakistan at Bridgetown, 4th ODI

“Hey, it seems our nation was harboring* the world’s most wanted man…how about some cricket?”

“Cool.”

And so went, I am sure, the conversation between the Captains this morning down at the Kensington Oval.

*Not really harboring, per se, yes, I know.

It must be interesting to be a member of an international team, when that nation is all of a sudden thrust into the world news spotlight.  Even more so when the spotlight has a negative bent.  Are Pakistani players proud of their country kits this morning?  Tough call.

Back to the pitch: interesting couple of notes from Cricinfo’s introduction to the fourth ODI: West Indies have not won an ODI against a test side that was not Bangladesh since 2009; and it seems several of their best players are thousands of miles away playing under the bright lights of the IPL.  Why would the WICB, a side dearly in need of winning momentum, elect to play an ODI series during the IPL?

Anyway, rain in Bridgetown this morning, but it looks as if we have started on time.  West Indies won the toss and elected to field.  Goodness it must be hard for the players to “get up” for these dead rubber matches.  I bet there are 2 people in the stands right now.

On top of that, LOADS of other cricket going on today:  No less than nine Clydesdale Bank 40 matches are in progress, there are two marquee IPL matches, and another low tier international tournament has begun in Botswana.  More on that tournament as well as a recap of the County Cricket 40s tomorrow.

Until then: greetings from Jaipur:

Robin Uthappa scored 35 off 21 balls, Rajasthan Royals v Pune Warriors, IPL 2011, Jaipur, May 1, 2010

Rajasthan Royals v Mumbai Indians at Jaipur, Indian Premier League

There was a time, in the not so distant past, but long before I started following the sport, that the West Indies were the best cricket team on the planet.   Dominating test series after test series, and winning back to back world cups (’75 and ’79).   Considering the above, is a little sad to see the state of West Indian cricket.  Hosting the disastrous 2007 World Cup (not really their fault) and most recently, on the receiving end of a thrashing in an ODI series on their home turf by Pakistan.

I talk a lot about the health of cricket here, and I think it is important for the growth of the sport that West Indies stays competitive and relevant.  And the poor form on the pitch and the infighting by the WICB are not helping matters in the least.  Hopefully, at some point, they will right the ship, and return to being cricket’s gleaming tropical outpost.

In the IPL, Rajasthan “hammered” Mumbai, only the second loss for the Indians in the tournament.  Mumbai is still top of the table, but Rajasthan is now in 2nd.  Warne only took one wicket, but it seems he had a massive spell for the Royals. I wished I could have watched him bowl to Sachin.

Over in England, the County Championship enters its fourth day, despite the distraction of the Royal Wedding.   Last night I clicked on Sussex’s page for the first time in a while, and checked out Sussex TV – their highlights have come a long, long way.  Still only the one camera, but the viewing screen is twice the size it once was, and they actually have an announcer talking to the highlights, instead of just music. (Though I personally loved the old techno track they used to play over them).  I will need to investigate other County pages and see what they have to offer in the form of video.

Back to work.  Here’s William and Kate:

West Indies v Pakistan at Bridgetown, 3rd ODI

Ah, rain, now that is the real cricket killer.  It seems as though fully 30% of all cricket matches are affected by rain. Yes, I know it has everything to do with the season the sport is played in, as well as the part of the world it is most most popular in, but goodness it seems cricket pitches see more than their fair share of rain.

The match above has been delayed, heck they haven’t even had the toss yet.

(The BeeGees’ “How Deep is Your Love” is playing on the Muzak here are at the office.  I have a good feeling that that is the same tune they are playing on the ground’s loudspeakers in Barbados.  It just seems to…fit.)

Last night I was debating whether or not I should finally sign up for willow.tv. It is now a flat $14.99 a month, instead of $50 or so for each series.  My only real problem is getting my money’s worth, since the matches are at such odd times, and it is really difficult to tell which matches they are actually going to carry.  West Indies v Pakistan didn’t show up until just the last few days.  If they are going to show the Sri Lankan and Indian tours of England, I might have to pony up.   And if I am going to get serious about being a cricket writer, I really need to, you know, start watching more cricket.  Cricinfo’s ball by ball coverage only goes so far.

In County Champhionship, Lancashire are on the verge of beating Sussex by a full innings, and Middlesex looks to the same to Surrey at Lord’s (Division 2).  The IPL features Delhi versus Kolkata…weather permitting, of course.

Middlesex v Surrey at Lord’s, County Championship Division Two

Another day, another post pining for the good old days, when cricket was played by white people, with white fans, in a white country.   Yes, I am being too harsh on poor old Martin Johnson, who longs for the days before video replay (because getting the call right is such a, you know, problem) and pop music between overs (okay that is something I can get on board with) but his post is just another indication of a very real divide in the game.

Mr. Johnson sees the County game as the “bedrock” of the sport (referring to it as “our” sport, as in “us”, as in “English people”), and while I love the Championship as much as the next fella, the bedrock is shifting east, and people like Mr. Johnson are going to have to get on board, or be pushed aside.

However, he does make some decent points: the fact that a game that requires FOUR entire days to be played would never be concocted in the digital age, and that the county game does have a very real “quality all of its own” – but he comes across as bitter in pointing those positives out.

Now: why can’t both versions of the same sport exist peacefully?  Why does one have to push the other out?  Is it simply a metaphor for a shift in world power from NATO to BRIC?  I am not sure where all this is heading.

Let’s just say this: there is nothing wrong with India making the game their own.  Instead, England should be proud to have created something so beloved.   And, honestly, as long as people like Mr. Johnson are around to extol its virtues, the county game, as we know it, isn’t going anywhere either.

But when the Martin Johnsons of the world are gone, and they are an endangered species, the game he describes in his article might be gone, too.

Back on the pitch: (It IS kind of annoying how the County Championship is pushed to the back pages of Cricinfo, while the IPL is given front page status no matter what): Chennai is chasing down Pune’s 141, while Kochi v Deccan starts a little later.  The IPL is fun for the first week, but then you start to realize what a slog it is.  Still a month left before the qualifying playoffs.

And day 2 of the County Championship rolls on, from which our photo of the day emerges.  Until tomorrow:

James Cameron was caught for 25 as Worcestershire's batsmen struggled, Nottinghamshire v Worcestershire, County Championship Division One, Trent Bridge, April 26, 2010

Sussex v Lancashire at Hove, County Championship Division One

Again, with the news, on Malinga.  I somehow missed that he retired from test cricket last week, but it looks as though it is official.  Further, he thanked, get this, the IPL, the bastion of all that is unholy about cricket, for giving him another chance to get healthy, and get noticed.  Mmmm…the IPL, the death knell for cricket: saving the career of the one the most electric and entertaining cricketers on the planet.  What say you now, British press?

Of course, he does go on to blame the Sri Lankan federation for their lack of concern, and one would hope that the Indian or English cricket boards would be more careful with their stars’ injuries, but I think it is truly a feather in the cap of the IPL.  Not only does it allow for the development of a great many young Indian cricketers, but it provides a platform for players from around the world to prove to their country boards that they are ready compete at the highest level.

Ongoing today: Delhi v Bangalore, County Cricket, and something called the “Premiere League Tournament Tier A” – which I believe is Sri Lankan club cricket.  That’s it, early meeting today, maybe a rare afternoon post later?