Afghanistan erupted in to unbound joy as their cricketers beat Bangladesh in the recently concluded Asian Cup. Shapoor Zadran, Mohammad Nabi and Samiullah Shenwari all became household names in their country. So Bangladesh heaved a sigh of relief when Mushfiqur Rahim and his boys handsomely got past Afghanistan in their Twenty20 world cup opener.
The battle of the minnows is as interesting as the clash of the big guns and results such as Afghanistan beating Bangladesh in the Asian Cup are such that help the game move forward in the respective countries.
Bangladesh went into the final of the last Asian Cup and this is such a cricket-playing country that has produced talent, but I strongly believe they need to be nurtured and a proper system still needs to be put in place so that it can help the growth of the game in this country to a bigger extent. Their T20 World Cup team is much stronger than the one that took the field in the Asian Cup and I would not be surprised that, if Bangladesh can play to their potential, they may pose some threat to the big boys, in whichever group they are. Bangladesh having to play the qualifiers is not a fair indication of their strength.
Ireland is one more country that has been making rapid strides. They have scored some brilliant victories — against Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup and also stunning England in the 2011 version. Amongst the upcoming countries in cricket, Ireland are talked about heavily and their performances in the current championship are surely noteworthy. They got past another Test-playing country, Zimbabwe, in their first outing and are favourites to top their own group for a place in the Super 10.
The ICC has really provided a platform for these comparatively small nations by constantly allowing them to be a part of ICC tournaments in any format, which helps them judge their merits by rubbing shoulders against the top guns at every possible opportunity.
Most players of Ireland, the Netherlands and a few more from the Associate Member countries of the ICC have tasted real competition at the top level and, in order to rise to the level personally, have ventured to play for counties and in other T20 championships in various countries. This not only hones the skill of that particular individual, but also creates interest back home for generations to get hooked to the game. Ireland is one such country that is reaping the harvest.
But importantly the ICC will need to strongly focus on the infrastructure development in these and other member countries as that will be key for the game to spread its wings either in the small Himalayan country of Nepal or in any other potential place.
— The author is a former Indian captain