Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Netherlands face England aiming to prove associates belong in World Cup

Tuesday 22 February 2011

We are still waiting for a close game in the World Cup and England will be fervently hoping that this pattern remains. On Tuesday they take on the Netherlands in one of those matches that the professionals dread. Victory is expected, but never applauded. Defeat would be a calamity. The usual truism on these occasions is that the minnows have \"nothing to lose\" and therefore they have the luxury of a pressure-free game.

This is not quite the case on Tuesday.. There has already been much debate and considerable opposition to the fact that the next World Cup will comprise 10 teams rather than 14. The associate sides feel locked out. The Netherlands coach, Peter Drinnen, has explained their position. \"The gains of playing against full members are significant. It is so important that we keep getting those opportunities as that only enhances our development and increases our progress.\"

To justify playing in the World Cup, however, the matches have to be competitive. So far Kenya and Canada have been thrashed so decisively that the games have offered a dreadful spectacle, albeit a brief one in Chennai where New Zealand beat Kenya with 252 balls to spare. So, curiously, there is an unusual pressure on the Netherlands for this game: to fly the flag for the little teams.

An alternative view – and apparently a minority one, which happens to be mine – is that the World Cup, a tournament whose attractions have withered over the past decade, is so diminished by so many one-sided contests that its very existence is jeopardised. Cricket cannot afford many more of these mis-matches.

The Twenty20 World Cup is a more appropriate place for associate sides to play the big boys and that is what is planned. Moreover, an arrangement that required the full member countries to play a certain number of 50-over games against associates would be a much better way of giving the minnows experience.

Andrew Strauss, speaking at the out-of-town stadium, which is expected to be very sparsely populatedfor the match, stressed that his side will give the Netherlands \"due attention and respect. We will take nothing for granted\".

For these games the backroom analysts earn their corn. The England players will know a bit about Ryan ten Doeschate of Essex and Alexei Kervezee of Worcestershire; Tom Cooper has one-day experience – and success for South Australia. Peter Borren and Wesley Barresi have full time contracts with the Netherlands. Otherwise, the opposition are amateurs. Those analysts may not dwell too long on the fact that the Netherlands famously defeated England at Lord\'s in the first match of the World Twenty20 in 2009, an outcome that is much more likely the shorter the game.

Strauss was determinedly upbeat ahead of the game, despite the recent exertions of his team. \"We are very excited. The World Cup is one of those events that capture the imagination, especially in India. And arriving in a new country is a good way of refreshing.\"

Strauss has a new opening partner in Kevin Pietersen. \"We have been thinking about that idea for a while, especially in the subcontinent,\" he said. \"He did not need any persuading to do it; in fact he was very keen.\"

Another key player for England over the next six weeks should be Graeme Swann, who arrived in India on Sunday after witnessing the birth of his first child, Wilfred. \"He\'s a bit jetlagged – and elated – and like everyone else is available for selection,\" said Strauss.

England are eager for the penetration that Swann might bring to the middle overs on pitches around India and Bangladesh that are bound to favour spinners. It would be very surprising if Swann were not pitched into the team straightaway for two good reasons: he needs the practice and England need his flair.

Strauss has one dilemma when selecting his best team. He must choose between the doughty Michael Yardy and the flighty Ravi Bopara. It is an interesting choice, leaving aside the different attributes of the two. Does he go for the archetypal, gritty old pro, who is solidly dependable, or the more gifted, but more wayward Bopara? It should not make much difference against the Netherlands, but it might later in the tournament

News From: http://www.7StarNews.com

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