Having taken the sensible precaution of cancelling their scheduled Test series against the mighty Australia, the Zimbabwean Cricket Union have challenged the world champions to a best-of-three series of Pro20 matches in a move that could take the cricket world by storm and create a precedent for other, smaller nations to follow.
Zimbabwe’s current squad of teenagers are talented and promising but, by general consent, not good enough to play the longest and hardest version of the game, particularly against Ricky Ponting’s Australia.
Widespread media reports have indicated that the two countries are set to play three 50-over matches on Tuesday 25th, Thursday 27th and Saturday 29th. But negotiations are currently underway between the Boards of the two countries and the ICC to find a more appropriate format.
“At the moment we feel that 50 overs is probably a bit too long for our young side so we were looking for a more appropriate length of game,” said Shudder Nolonger, a friend of the ZCU’s spokesman’s sister. “South Africa recently played a very successful looking competition that lasted 20 overs per side and, apart from one game when there was a floodlight failure, nobody got really embarrassingly beaten, so we have suggested we play Australia in the same way.
Nolonger indicated that, in time, when Tatenda Taibu’s fiesty youngsters have gained more experience and a little more confidence, they might suggest an increase to 30 overs and then, perhaps to 40 and 50. There is, evidently, no end to the imagination and creativity of the ICC despite the current crisis of ability amongst the game’s minnows.
“Zimbabwe may have opened the door to the true globalisation of the game – this whole crisis could be a blessing in disguise and a silver lining to a very dark cloud,” ICC spokeswoman Inersha Patience said. “We see a system of handicapping not unlike the way the best horses carry additional weights for certain races. The idea is to level the playing field so we can achieve an even contest,” Patience said.
The ICC’s Cricket Committee are already known to be considering a two-tier system for Test matches to avoid horrible mismatches but with the handicapping system in place for one-day internationals there is no limit to the possibilities for international competition.
“The ICC has 90 associate and affiliate member nations so cricket is already a truly global game. Obviously there is a great disparity in the general levels of ability between those nations but we envisage bringing them together through this system. Ireland, for example, could be very competitive indeed against South Africa in a ten-over game and while Nepal or Uganda could produce an upset against England if they played five overs per side. A country like Fiji might have to play Australia in a one-over game, though,” Patience admitted enthusiastically.
The thorny topic of what television production companies and, more importantly, sponsors of one-day cricket might think of the ICC “protecting the sanctity of Test cricket” while allowing one-dayers to be used and abused as anyone sees fit appeared not to be a concern to the ZCU, ICC or even the Australians. Evidently, there is no “sanctity” in one-day cricket.
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