Tuesday, Nov 29, 2022

ICC World T20: In small town, associates try to balance confusion and aspiration

The qualifying leg of World T20 that saw Afghanistan make main draw but Scotland, Zimbabwe, and Hong Kong slink back to anonymity.

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‘A pall of gloom has descended over Nagpur Municipal Corporation after not making it to the first list of 20 smart cities.’ That’s how a local newspaper ran the story of the city failing to find a place in the coveted list. In some ways, it proved an apt venue to host the qualifying leg of World T20 that saw Afghanistan move to main draw but the likes of Scotland, Zimbabwe, and Hong Kong slink back to anonymity. A place where aspirations took wings but were grounded by harsh realities. (Full Coverage|| Fixtures||Photos)

Small towns in India can be a fascinating place. A former editor of this newspaper used to say that wall graffiti offer interesting insights into Indian small-towns. The advertisements in local cable television aren’t also bad at that job, though some can be confusing. At the hotel here in Nagpur, there is an advert that runs automatically when you turn on the television. A young man, who slides up his sunglasses, revealing kajal-lined eyes, is shown eyeing four young women, who start moving towards him. Perplexed, and a touch panicky, he starts to run and is finally cornered by the girls when he goes, “I didn’t do anything, I didn’t do anything.” One of the girls replies, “Dhakkan! (fool) voh to patha hai, where did you buy that goggles?!” In the next frame, all five of them are shown laughing and posing outside the shop in the city that sells those glasses. It seems a nice touch to show that today’s girl isn’t going to put up with lecherous idiots but it’s not immediately clear whether it’s a good advert for the product – or is this place for dhakkans who want shades?

Such confusion and aspirational dreams was also seen at the VCA stadium in the outskirts of the city. Associates do mirror small towns, in some ways. Hong Kong seemed nervy and out of place and rarely managed to coax anything special from themselves. The coach explained that the result was expected considering the personnel they had. They were happy with the experience gained here, he said, and promised improvement when they turn out for the next T20 event four years down the line. There aren’t many cricket grounds back home, but he was hopeful that situation will change by the time the kids, who are beginning to take interest in the game, grow up. They are the small-town boys who are shy and limited by their ability at a bigger stage.

If Hong Kong were perhaps pinned down by their own self-awareness of their limitations, Zimbabwe seemed too cagey and fearful to expect the best out of themselves. Zimbabwe isn’t an associate team but they played like one here. Unsure of themselves, they dawdled a bit and were a major let down. Their captain Hamilton Masakadza, who was run out twice in three games, cut a forlorn figure at the press interactions, struggling to put a finger on what went wrong but honest enough to admit that things had spiralled out of control. Even their wins weren’t comprehensive and the loss to Afghanistan was a royal drubbing. They are the small town boys who have retreated after licking their wounds in the big city and haven’t regained confidence yet to dream.

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Afghanistan, as expected, have been the toast of Nagpur. Forget having any nerves of participating in a world event, they had a swagger about them. The conditions here – slow and offering some turn – helped them but they have bowlers who can bowl faster than most Indian bowlers and their batsmen have been audacious to take the battle to the opposition. Some teams in the main draw could be in for a surprise or two if they can retain this attitude. They are the small-town boys who are at peace with themselves, confident, and go to the big city to party.

Scotland proved to be a mixed bag. Their captain Preston Mommsen talked the good talk but seemed handcuffed by the conditions. Their batsmen couldn’t turn it on the sluggish tracks which aided turn, and though they did manage to beat Hong Kong, they would be disappointed overall with their performances. It’s not entirely their fault of course as their captain has pointed out how difficult it is for associate teams to get competitive matches on a regular basis. An angry Mommsen asked the world not to question their hunger and demanded more equitable status in the world of cricket. They are the small-town boys who work their backs off but stumble as the gap between aspiration and reality seem too far to bridge at the moment, without heart-felt support from the system.

By the way, the Nagpur Municipal Corporation is getting all ready to resubmit proposals by April 15 when the second list of smart cities – 23 of them – will be named by the ministry of urban development. This city has a month; the Associate cricket teams have to wait another four years for their next chance.

First published on: 14-03-2016 at 01:21:56 am
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