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Minnows face Goliath-sized Cricket World Cup battle

FOX SAKER
Last updated 10:31 09/03/2015
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BEATING THE ODDS: Kevin O'Brien of Ireland celebrates getting a wicket against Zimbabwe.

Minnows: Cricket World Cup fillers or giant killers?

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There was time when the David's of the cricket world went into battle with the Goliaths with victories that would remind us of the biblical myth.

Ireland against England in Bangalore in 2011. A Bangladesh side still in its international cricketing youth, against India and South Africa in the West Indies in 2007. Pakistan against Ireland at the same World Cup.

The famous Old Testament legend was designed to illustrate that size, strength and superior weaponry are no match for a brave heart, wits, and divine luck paired with uncanny skill with a lesser weapon. As the legend goes, David with one shot from his sling downed the overconfident and unsuspecting giant, Goliath.

In the biblical account, because the blow killed the giant, we shall never know what may have happened should there have been a rematch.

In the world of cricket, we certainly do.

Despite claims to the contrary, there are really only ever four of five genuine Goliath sides at any one time.

The West Indies were once a Goliath in the days of Viv Richards and company, but it has been a long time since they had a team in that league and they have serious internal issues. Their defeat at the hands of Ireland at the 2015 World Cup was no certainly giant killing.

India is always a Goliath at home, but until very recently, with advent of the T20 phenomenon and a more global game, they rarely produced the same form collectively away from India. They have improved in that area, yet still struggled in recent tours to New Zealand and Australia.

Despite producing one the great batting lineups of the modern era, lead by Sachin Tendulkar, their giant status stems more from their ridiculous commercial power in the game than their ranking. 

In fairness to this current Indian team they have proven to be a Goliath at this World Cup and are so far unbeaten. They are also the current ODI World Champions.

Pakistan have a similar problem - strong at home but inconsistent away from flat batting tracks that turn.

Pakistan have some truly gifted world-class players like Younis Kahn and the mercurial Shahid Afridi, but they cannot carry the side alone, and their fielding is ordinary.

New Zealand has always been respected but never considered a cricketing giant, the days of the mid 1980s with Martin Crowe and Richard Hadlee at the peak of their powers being the only possible exception, but it was honourary giant status, nothing more.

But the times are changing - and fast. This current Black Caps side is the closest thing to a possible long-term and genuine cricketing giant the Kiwi's have produced.

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The way they have played in the last 12 months has made them not only one of the favorites at this World Cup, but one of the most respected teams in the game in all formats. People are talking, and the Black Caps have bowlers and batsmen ranked as some of the finest in the game right now. They are also climbing the rankings in both test and ODI cricket at breakneck speed.

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South Africa and Australia have always been cricketing Goliaths and the current sides are no different.

Sri Lanka is arguably the best of the sub-continent cricketing nation away from home. They are playing well and have a strong side, finding good form. A giant they are at this World Cup which leaves, England, the team that gave birth to cricket, and not all that long ago they were ranked number one in the world.

Unfortunately the modern England team is one of those beasts with a soft underbelly. They can be bullied by the other big guns, and can be bossed by the minnows, as their unceremonious loss to Ireland in Bangalore at the 2011 World Cup clearly illustrated.

But would Ireland beat them in a rematch?

They are the best of the minnows, but David's slingshot finding the mark twice might be asking too much. The Philistine never got the chance to prove he had learned from a hard combat lesson - England have.

At recent World Cups India have the dubious reputation of being beaten and battered by minnows. In 2007 both India and Pakistan were booted out at the group stage after losing to Bangladesh (then considered only a strong minnow) and Ireland respectively.

But the current young boys of world cricket are unlikely to find victory against Goliath teams who have previously suffered the indignity of being knocked out, or knocked to the ground.

Those who have yet to be so embarrassed, have learned from watching the carnage.

There may be individuals who treat the minnows too lightly, but never enough to bring about a team defeat. 

The original David landed a single killer blow. This time, with superior weaponry and no longer underestimating their smaller weaker opponent, the current giants of cricket will not be ambushed by any courageous David's.

The minnows may scrap a victory against the broken brothers like Pakistan, West Indies, and a weaker Bangladesh out of their sub-continent comfort zone, but the biblical story will remain just that - there will be no giant-sized deaths at this World Cup.

The minnows are not giant killers, but nor are they fillers. They are fillies, young horses in training.

Among them you will still find a champion individual, and in the future, if not a champion team, then hopefully a new tier-one cricketing nation who on their day, can challenge the traditional giants. In some respects teams like Ireland already are.

But every budding champion needs battles to up their game and the World Cup provides that, even if the format needs to be jazzed up - and it most certainly does.


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