The Importance Of Being Seen, Sandeep's In The Fight, And A Surprise Superstar > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - The significance of being seen - Sandeep's struggles and a surprise superstar
With Ashes hype in full swing over in England it was always going to take something special for a story from the associate world to break into the news cycle, but in a week that saw some surprise results at the Asia T20 Qualifier final and the European U19s Qualifier, rising speculation over Zimbabwe's situation and slots at global tournaments, and the sudden scrapping of the Hong Kong Sixes (and possible reprieve for the Blitz), it was the story of an unlikely star with a strange bowling action that grabbed headlines around the globe, drawing an inordinate amount of attention to a previously unheralded new club competition in Europe.
Whilst Dutch Champions VOC Rotterdam claiming the title in the inaugural T10 European Cricket League in La Manga was hardly surprising, even if the scoreline in the final where they racked up 222-0 in ten overs against German title-holders SG Findorff raised a few eyebrows.
But it was the team that finished with the wooden spoon at the eight-team tournament - Romanian Champions Cluj CC - that produced the star of the show. Footage of all-rounder and club president Pavel Florin's rather unschooled, unorthodox, high-looping bowling action swiftly went viral, the initially rather uncharitable mockery quickly turning to acclaim as details of Florin's dedication to his club emerged, and his transparent love for the game shone through in a hastily-arranged interview put out by the league's remarkably media-savvy organisers.
The 40 year-old Florin, a bodyguard by trade who also plays competitive Futsal and American football back in Romania, was bowling his donkey-drops off a barely-healed broken leg. "Maybe someone says my bowling is not beautiful or not effective, but I don't care, because I love cricket" Florin told the world, and spoke of his ambitions to build a ground in his home town as currently Cluj CC regularly make a 500km commute to Bucharest to play.
The interview won Florin some new famous fans, with the likes of Jofra Archer and Dimitri Mascarenhas (who was in attendance in Spain) tweeting their support, whilst the League itself may have have bagged a big-name backer for the next edition, with none other than Shane Warne pledging his support, tweeting "Well done and congrats to everyone who made this happen. I would love to check this tournament out next year & help out, if you need a helping hand then hit me up! Congrats again."
While such viral moments cannot be reliably manufactured, Florin's sudden worldwide fame and the consequent attention focussed on what remained essentially a club-level competition in Europe underscores what can be achieved simply by getting games on TV screens. The ECL organisers' efforts ahead of the tournament had secured agreements with broadcasters in over 100 countries, often giving the rights away just for the exposure, most significantly getting the tournament onto free-to-air television in England and Australia.
Despite the lack of star power (VOC and Netherlands skipper Pieter Seelaar the closest thing to a big name on display) and wildly disparate standard of play, the new competition generated massively more social engagement and buzz than most any international cricket manages outside of full member matches and tournaments.
Though the ICC has seemingly relaxed their restrictions on Associate boards themselves arranging for games to be streamed at ICC events such as regional T20 Qualifiers or divisional tournaments in the old World Cricket League or new CWC Leagues, broadcast of international cricket below Full Member level remains essentially ad-hoc and broadly limited to (sometimes single-camera) online streaming.
The root of the problem is in part budgetary - the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe saw only ten matches broadcast after a portion of the production budget was allocated elsewhere - but more generally the ICC seems to lack any coherent broadcast strategy for anything but its flagship events.
The broadcast rights for events which make up part of the qualifying ladders for events such as the T20 WC and Cricket World Cup, which in effect encompasses practically all Associate tournaments, have in the past generally been bundled with the rights for the headline events themselves, coming to rest with broadcast partners who have little-to-no interest in cricket below the top level and who are under no obligation to provide any coverage at all.
Associate bilateral fare little better, with boards often lacking the wherewithal, experience or simply the cash to provide anything but the most rudimentary of coverage. So while viewers around the world watched club cricketers from Russia and France go toe-to-toe in multi-camera high-definition on free to air last week, they will likely have to make do with a fixed single-camera feed on YouTube when the first CWC League 2 ODI tri-series gets underway in Aberdeen in six day's time, or just a scorecard updated every couple of overs if they were hoping to follow events at Voorburg today, where a young Netherlands side are trying to salvage something from a 4-match T20I series against the UAE that they currently trail 0-2.
If nothing else the ECL has shown there is an appetite for cricket from the game's wider reaches if it is made available, especially if viewers aren't forced to seek it out. The ECL's tactic of giving rights away for free is hardly a new one in sport, both Premier League football and the NBA have successfully employed the strategy to break new markets in the past. In an era where the cost of streaming and production has never been lower, the ICC's inertia continues to do its own events a disservice, to say nothing of its smaller members and their players.
Whilst Pavel Florin is unlikely to land any franchise deals off the back of his new fame, even token coverage can the growing army of franchise scouts uncover talent from further afield. It is unlikely that the Netherlands' Toby Visee or Namibia's JJ Smit would have landed their first T20 gigs at the ongoing Global T20 in Canada had it not been for the streaming of a handful of Dutch T20Is of late or the partial broadcast of the final World Cricket League Division 2 earlier this year.
That said, increased exposure cuts both ways for emerging players, and indeed the attention of the laptop-gazers seems to have caught up to one of Associate cricket's break-out stars. Nepal's young Sandeep Lamichhane is no longer an unknown quantity, and like fellow trailblazing legspinner Rashid Khan, is now likely amongst the most analysed bowlers in the game. Much as Khan has had a rough time of it of late, Lamichhane has in recent weeks found himself targetted by batsmen who have clearly been doing their homework.
Whilst being hit for 24 in an over by Scotland's George Munsey (as he was at the GT20 this week) is admittedly the sort of thing that can happen to anyone, Lamichhane's difficulties in Canada will be of less concern to Nepal fans than how effectively he was neutralised at the Asian T20 WC Qualifying finals by Singapore, where the hosts' extensive preparation programme paid off handsomely, going unbeaten to claim the sole berth on offer for the Global Qualifier as the more-fancied Nepal slumped to third place behind Qatar.
After enjoying a freshman year on the world stage in 2018 where he could seemingly do no wrong, Lamichhane has had a tough 2019, going at over nine an over in the IPL, and over eight at the Asia Qualifier last week. He is not the first young spinner to find himself forced into reinvention as the attention of analysts takes its toll, but Lamichanne, together with the rest of the Nepal side, faces the unique challenge of having to drive his own development in an environment of persistent administrative inadequacy.
Three years after the board was canned for political interference, Nepal remains suspended from the ICC, playing effectively on the sufferance, and under the guidance, of the global body. Whilst the domestic game continues largely driven by private T20 leagues, the senior team has seemingly stagnated. Nepal's only significant prep for the Asia Finals was two warm up matches against (eventual wooden-spooners) Malaysia, whilst Singapore played no less than 15 preparatory games, reportedly scouting players similar to those they would be facing in the tournament itself to serve as opposition.
Whilst Nepal stumbled to defeat in their opener against Qatar, Singapore looked in control throughout, only a washout against Kuwait denying them a clean sweep. Whilst Perth Scorcher's Singapore-born Tim David played a decisive hand with 77 off 43 in the de-facto final against Nepal, the eventual 82-run margin of victory suggests they might even have made it without him.
The defeat sees Nepal miss the Global Qualifier for the first time in almost a decade, whilst Singapore join Papua New Guinea, Jersey, Kenya, Namibia and two sides from the Americas Qualifier (to be held in Bermuda later this month) at the tournament in October. The United Arab Emirates will also be there as hosts, whilst the Netherlands, Scotland, Oman, Ireland and Hong Kong were granted byes on the basis of their performances at the previous Qualifier. Late-breaking news also confirmed that Nigeria, third-placed at the Africa Qualifier, will replace the suspended Zimbabwe, marking the second time this year that Nigeria have qualified for a global event after winning through the Africa under 19s qualifier earlier this year.
The development will be of some interest to Ireland's under 19 side, who missed out on the sole European World Cup qualification slot last week, finishing behind Scotland at the European Finals, but are in principal next in line should Zimbabwe remain suspended. Meanwhile the Namibian women's side have also benefitted from Zimbabwe's troubles with a late invitation to the Women's WT20 Qualifier in Scotland next month, where they will join the hosts together with Bangladesh, Ireland, the Netherlands, Thailand, Papua New Guinea and the United States.
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