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Promoting the sport
Cricket minnows aim to make best of no-win situation
Posted: Wednesday January 22, 2003 10:42 AM
LONDON (AP) -- The cricketing giants may see them as a nuisance to be swatted away in their quest for the World Cup. But for the five minor teams that won consolation slots in cricket's biggest tournament, the glory is not in winning matches.
The five -- Bangladesh, Kenya, Netherlands, Namibia and Canada -- are hoping that their South African expedition next month will help popularize the game at home where cricket is just an oddity, overshadowed by sports such as soccer, ice hockey and basketball.
"It will raise the profile of the game if not anything else. We have to battle with big professional sports for space. It's not easy," Karam Gopaulsingh, the Canadian team's manager, told The Associated Press.
Of the five, only Bangladesh is a test playing nation, a status they attained only 2 1/2 years ago. Kenya is sanctioned to play one-day internationals while the other three amateur teams qualified for the World Cup by taking the top three positions in the 2001 International Cricket Council (ICC) Trophy for non-test playing countries.
Playing its second World Cup, Bangladesh has the advantage among the minnows. It would have had the most practice and experience in the southern hemisphere summer when the World Cup starts on Feb. 9.
Bangladesh began playing a five-match one-day series against Namibia Jan. 18 in Johannesburg, and has played all over South Africa during their previous tours.
The Bangladesh players have set themselves a target of at least two victories over Canada and Kenya in their Group B matches, besides hoping for an upset over Sri Lanka, West Indies or New Zealand, just as they did in the last World Cup in 1999 when they beat Pakistan.
"Cricket is a funny old game where anything can happen on a given day," coach Mohsin Kamal said.
"So if we can achieve a victory against one of the big four, I think that will be our World Cup in a way," said Kamal, a former Pakistan fast bowler.
The 15-man squad includes one specialized spinner, Mohammad Rafique, and four fast bowlers including Mashrafi-bin-Murtaza who returns to the team after one year. The other seamers are Manjurul Islam, Tapash Kumar Baishya and Talha Zubair.
Baishya, 19, took four for 72 against the West Indies in the first innings of their second test match last month. Bangladesh lost the two-test series as well as the three-match one-day series.
Bangladesh's first match at the World Cup will be against Canada on Feb. 11 at Durban.
Canada qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1979 with a five-wicket win over Scotland in the third-place playoff in the 2001 ICC Trophy qualifying tournament.
Led by new coach, former West Indies batsman Gus Logie, the team will arrive in warm Pretoria on Jan. 26, leaving behind -18 C (0 F) temperatures in Toronto where most of the team members are based.
Because of long winters, the Canadians play cricket outdoors only between May and September, and practice the rest of the time indoors, taking time off their regular jobs.
The team is expected to rely heavily on John Davison, a right arm off spinner and defiant lower order batsman who plays for South Australia. He is one of the few Canadian-born players in the team along with Barry Seebaran, the slow left-arm orthodox spinner who came to limelight in the 1990 ICC Trophy in the Netherlands.
"We have quality players. If we are able to win two matches and play other people competently I will be happy," Gopaulsingh, the manager, said in a telephone interview.
Kenya, a co-host of the World Cup, remains the dark horse among the five, capable of pulling off an upset as it did in the 1996 World Cup when it defeated the West Indies.
Kenya's latest one-day international experience has not been happy. It lost the three-match series to Zimbabwe in December 2-0, with one match abandoned.
But the spotlight on Kenya now is over concerns whether it is safe to hold the two matches in the country following the terrorism attack on a hotel and an airplane in November.
The Netherlands, which also made its international debut in the 1996 World Cup, qualified this time by winning the ICC Trophy, defeating Namibia by two wickets in the final.
The Dutch heroes of the match were Jacob Esmeijer, who ran with Asim Khan for three on the last ball with three runs needed to win, and Klass van Noortwijk who made 50 off 106 balls.
The two teams are placed in Group A of the World Cup and will clash again in the last of their pool match on March 3.
Namibia will hope that 19-year-old pace bowler Burton van Rooi will rise to the occasion as he did in the ICC Trophy when he took six for 43 against Scotland including a spell of three for three in eight balls to finish the match.
The ICC dismisses criticism that the minor teams are unfit to play in the World Cup or that they put a strain on professional cricketers and on themselves.
"They have their opportunity," said ICC spokesman Brendan McClements. "They've worked hard to get there and it's important those teams are able to play against the best in the world as it brings them up to standard."