In the midst of the IPL hype and in the aftermath of the terror that saw Bangladesh leave New Zealand, a solitary battle was being waged between two unlikely teams. Test cricket was still on fading light even as the spotlight was engaged on the IPL glitz. However, what lies on the horizon for these two teams is anyone’s guess.
Afghanistan scored their first Test win, over Ireland. The question is: how many even knew that the two latest entrants to Test cricket were engaged in a contest, absorbing by their standards, and that it was happening right here in India, the land in which cricket is already now overshadowed by the commencement of the relentless tourney that is the Twenty20 tournament.
Both teams had previously played just the one Test, Afghanistan against India that ended in two days and Ireland against Pakistan. Therefore, in only their second Test, it was a momentous occasion for both teams, even if it was not enticing enough to catch the news headlines instantly. However, to Afghanistan’s credit, they have kept their promise to keep striving for cricket recognition, now forging forward with their first Test win, albeit against another newcomer. In some ways, Ireland have been late to get the invitation although they have been an enterprising qualification at limited overs World Cups in past editions.
While both camps will have be celebrating another international opportunity in the longest, most pristine format of the sport, questions will be asked if enough has been done or is being done to not just send out the invitations to join the club but also, to adequately prepare themselves for this level. With the World Test championships around the corner, while the top tier teams will be engaged in this unique, one of a kind battle, there is likely to be a greater visibility of the disparity between the competitive levels of teams and in that light, it is rather paltry that the calendars of Ireland and Afghanistan look rather bleak.
After all apart from their inaugural euphoria, there was also the descending fear that they would be subjected to the oblivion and expected to perform at the drop of a hat without having enough systems in place to ensure their ascent to more competitive level could be fast-tracked by greater participation with the ‘A’ teams of the top teams, if not the top teams themselves. While there have been some big brother approaches in that Afghanistan have been allowed to use India as home to train and play, it is far from enough if Afghanistan are to quickly climb the rungs to ensure they and teams such as Ireland are not simply making up the numbers for numbers sake alone particularly in the longest format of the game that is seeking for safety in numbers as well as integrity in the quality of the sport being played in the backdrop of the glut of Twenty20.
While it is a great advocate to showcase the latest entrants to the Test match making a honest game out of the opportunity, unless there is more done in terms of exposure that attracts people to the match and also, to ensure that they can stay competitive when their international cricket appeals bleak, the message to the other associate teams might be that they must earn their ticket and also, find a way to make the top league, without virtually no help at all.