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That, either way, is a new beginning because teams don't carry their points from the qualifiers and that means there are a few dead rubbers. Like India vs England on the 23rd. As the tournament hopes to gather steam it is suddenly up against what should have been a marquee game but is really a warm-up game. To allow people to choose the matches they want to watch, and that is a valid reason, teams are pre-seeded into the Super Eights and so whether or not India beats England doesn't really matter to the tournament. Maybe there is a case for carrying points against the other qualifiers to inject greater value to the earlier games.
That is not to say it hasn't been fun watching them and I enjoyed watching Afghanistan's spirited cricketers try and make the most of the little opportunities thrown their way. Theirs has been the story of world cricket over the last five years and the good news is that it doesn't seem likely to end very quickly. They have withstood political turnoil, violence and displacement to come so far and hereafter other barriers must seem like small hurdles in the way of their spirit.
Already a few of their cricketers look like they could fit into more established teams and two in particular, the seamers Dawlat Zadran and Shapoor Zadran and the all-rounder Mohd Nabi looked very impressive. And word is that youngsters are flocking to camps being organised, that the U-16s are doing well. That is a good sign and I believe we can do more to help them along. It is very unlikely, given the way the world is going that Afghanistan's future will lie in Test cricket and so they need as much access to ODI and T20 knowledge as possible. One way to do that is to allow them to be part of the IPL. I can imagine a Dawlat Zadran spending six weeks with a Wasim Akram or a Shaun Pollock or Nabi spending time with Jacques Kallis or MS Dhoni. IPL teams don't need ten overseas players anyway and this might be a nice way of promoting talented cricketers and helping them find their way into world cricket. Apart from these two, I am sure a couple of others won't be out of place either.
If the signs are good with Afghanistan, they are not quite looking as positive for Zimbabwe. They were disappointing against Sri Lanka, not just with bat and ball but in the field which has been an area of great strength in the past. Unlike teams from the sub-continent, and we must put Afghanistan into this sub-class too, which learn traditional skills like batting and bowling first and acquire fielding somewhere along the path, Zimbabwe were doing it the other way. Because their fielding was always exceptional they were able to stay competitive but the signs here are a touch ominous.
I'm hoping too that the crowds come in as the tournament moves along. With the amount of cricket played around the world, and the easy accessibility through television, a cricket match is no longer a novelty anywhere. And I get the feeling, and it grows stronger with every tournament, that people need a context to watch. Non-home games aren't drawing crowds and even though it was only a warm up game, India vs Pakistan was played in front of a near empty stadium. Generating that context in tournaments like these won't be easy (in the Big Bash or the IPL every game is a home game for someone) and maybe that will become the new order in world cricket.
Maybe those games (27th-2nd), where every game will have a distinct value attached to it, will provide more clues.