Deserving of a place
Steve Tikolo: the star man among the minnows
Thursday, February 6, 2003
Kenya, Holland, Namibia and Canada go into the World Cup with some people suggesting that they are lucky to be there, that they undermine the importance of the World Cup. Fortunately, common sense and logic have prevailed. The global vision of the ICC is to broaden the base of cricket, and by allowing teams like this to play in the World Cup they encourage countries to foster the game. It is an important factor for the future of the game.
Most of the four emerging nations are essentially made up of amateurs. Kenya are the only all-professional side, while the rest have only the odd pro: Canada have John Davison, who plays for South Australia, and Nick de Groot, who represents Guyana, while Sussex's Bas Zuiderent is in the Dutch side. Namibia have no professional players, but have come on by playing in the Standard Bank Trophy, South Africa's domestic one-day competition.
I have been fortunate to be involved with all the sides under the auspices of the ICC high-performance programme, and it has been both fun and extremely rewarding to get to know the players and administrators from each country. Naturally, they have very different problems to overcome.
Take Canada, for example. It takes six hours to get from one side of the country to another. The summer is nice but short - and the winter's long and cold. I recently went to Canada to assist the coach and those squad members actually left in Canada, and the temperatures dropped to minus three degrees. This was bearable - just - but two days later it went down to minus 15. It's not easy to get motivated for an indoor net and a training session in those temperatures.
The side has many players from a West Indian and Asian background, and Canada can boast over 20,000 players all told. However cricket is still a foreign sport to many, televised cricket is a rarity, and sponsorship is almost non-existent. Canada do have a new coach - Gus Logie, who has been loaned to them by the West Indies.
A major disadvantage for all the emerging nations is that hardly any of their cricket lasts longer than one day. This means that their bowlers and batters, while talented, do not have much opportunity to improve their skills. I have learnt one major lesson during the past 18 months - or at least had my ideas reaffirmed - and that is that the more you play, the more you learn, the better you become. Experience is another part of cricket lore, and every team needs it.
Kenya have recently played some three- and four-day cricket, but Holland, Namibia and Canada have not had the opportunity, and they will be at a disadvantage as a consequence. One-day cricket, it has to be remembered, is a product of the three-day game and therefore the Test-playing nations will have more form and confidence.
The high-performance programme has tried to address as many facets of preparation as possible: fitness programmes, bowling machines, specialist coaches, psychologists, physiologists and coaches have all played a part in making these four nations better prepared than ever before.
Moving to Holland, nine of the team have been training and preparing in Cape Town, and the remainder have been over to the Edgbaston indoor centre to hone their skills. They have also had Bobby Simpson, who has given them invaluable advice. Emmerson Trottman is their fulltime coach, and they have a vibrant cricket community steeped in history.
It would be wrong to tell the world "Watch out for the minnows". Yet I am hopeful they will take into the World Cup a real desire to prove that there is talent outside the top ten teams, and hope that this tournament will prove an inspiration to further cricket within their borders.
Bob Woolmer, who coached South Africa in 1999, is now ICC's high-performance manager, with special responsibility for the emerging countries.