The German cricket team has disappeared from the global landscape with four losses and one tie. We knew that the 2013 edition of the ICC World Cricket League Division 7 would be our sternest test in many years. Our goal was so much bigger than just avoiding relegation: we had to get promoted to Division 6, since Divisions 8 and 7 would cease to exist, and therefore we needed to be amongst the two finalists of the competition.
Additionally to this pressure the problems began to pile up ahead of the tournament. Key players were not available, preparation was impossible because of the extremely long German winter; the grounds were still frozen when the team departed.
But we were still hopeful. We were pitted against Vanuatu first up, who we had beaten in the past; Botswana had been beatable, too, and the other teams would simply succumb to our excellent attack. Hmmm!
Sorry if I don't have the nerve to discuss them in detail... Ghana, who sent a kindergarten army to the tournament and still finished on top of us, Fiji, who tragically missed out on promotion by 0.02 pts NRR, Nigeria, who snuck past Fiji also thanks to us folding against them, hosts Botswana, who gave us a match to remember, and the unbeatable Vanuatuans, who won five out of five group matches and only lost the final. Congratulations to them, and Nigeria, on ascending to World Cricket League Divison 6, and good luck against Kuwait & Co.!
Our squad featured a lot of new faces. Allrounder Wasantha De Silva replaced Rishi Pillai, the fast bowlers Bilal Jafar, who had proved his value in bilateral matches last year, as well as Asad Khan (Mohammad Asad), and new spinner Sohel Mia, had to play under serious international pressure for the first time. It also needs to be said that left arm swing ace Ehsan Latif had returned to the side after a two-year hiatus.
A quick look at our matches:
[scorecards] [WCL Div 7 at CricketEurope: articles, photos and more]
1) Germany v Vanuatu: we had them 140/7, then let them get 200 (Bilal Jafar 3-37, Rana Javed Iqbal 3-58, Sohel Mia 2-32), a total which proved simply too much for our out of form batsmen; with 99 all out Germany started "Operation Rise and Shine" with a crushing defeat against the side we had to beat at all cost. At the WCL Div. 8 in Kuwait in 2010 we had not only beaten Vanuatu, but also pipped them for the spot in the final and promotion to WCL Div. 7. So this defeat sparked unholy rage amongst some pundits, who were horribly upset that we couldn't beat "these lollies". But the lolly boys finished the tournament unbeaten, the team has improved remarkably since 2010 and maybe, just maybe, we underestimated them a little.
Positives: new spinner Sohel Mia. It was him who broke through the walls of both their opening batsmen and induced the middle order collapse, finished his 10 ov spell with two wickets at just 3.20 per over. One catch and a stumping for our new wicketkeeper Ajitabh Malviya.
2) Fiji v Germany: one of the most annoying matches of all time. At 98/6 a chaseable total and German victory was within the reach of our hands... but then the wickets stopped falling and we suddenly found ourselves trying to chase 232. Result: the lowest German total I can remember, 69 all out. Absolutely humiliating. We would have to win all remaining matches by unmanageable large margins.. the bubble had burst.
Positives: their top and middle order handed their wickets to Javed and Sohel on a silver platter. Sohel finished another tidy performance with 3-35, Javed with 3-47. Our veteran attack leader had collected six wickets from two matches by then. One catch and two more stumpings for the alert Ajitabh.
3) Germany v Ghana: Ghana had been struggling so I was hoping we could finally end the drought. It wasn't meant to be. We lost the third toss in a row but got inserted this time and made 185. When Ghana came out to bat they simply hammered our bowlers to lumps. I guess we had been hoping to bowl first, too, since the decision was made to go in with an all-pace attack. Well we regrettet this selection very soon.. Ghana didn't even take 33 overs for the chase. The three wickets taken by new fast bowler Asad Mohammad came too late to have any effect on the outcome.
Positives: Opener André Leslie clawed his fingers, toes and teeth into the crease, to reach his personal highscore of 66. I was hoping he would stay not out...
|Wasantha De Silva next to the scoreboard. Photo by Ehsan Latif|
4) Botswana v Germany: since we had lost the first three matches we could now play freely. The spinners were back, we had finally won a toss and batted first; 211 looked a lot more defendable than our previous scores. Who would have thought that this match would go down to the very last ball. We took wickets at regular intervals and at 179/9 we should have had it in the kitty. But their last wicket partnership was made of steel. They tied the match with the penultimate ball... and that darned wicket fell with the last one. Mad yelling at their batsmen and begging and pleading our bowlers, massive loss of hair and fingernails until the nervous system collapsed under the stress. One of the all time best German cricket matches, no doubt.
Positives: Allrounder Wasantha De Silva finished with 3-17 off six overs, bowled that crazy last one and had removed their annoying opener with a caught and bowled. No positives list without Sohel Mia: 3-33 off ten overs. 2-40 for Javed, who made early inroads. Our batsmen finally showed glimpses of their class, 55 for Milan Fernando, 45 for Asif Khan.
5) Germany v Nigeria: we opted to bowl and they made 308. The only match in which Sohel couldn't slay the dragon. Too mighty and no one else helping much. But obviously he was as tidy as the desk of an OCD patient: 1-38 off ten overs. Farooq Ahmed took 3-63 off 6 overs. Javed didn't play. And we couldn't even muster half of the target. The End.
Playoff Germany v Ghana: delayed because of rain and wet outfield, so the match was shortened to 25 overs per side. They made 141, and I thought we were absolutely in with a chance. However we fell 8 runs short and were all out with the last ball, the lion's share of the work had been left to the tail, who did their best (Javed, Shakeel, Ajitabh), but couldn't get us over the line. André Leslie I think was retired hurt, and then came back to make 5*.
Most impressive player of the tournament
Berlin left arm spinner Sohel Mia. Sohel bags that collective award comprising of the following components:
+ Best new player out of the players that had never played for Germany before
+ Most amazing adaption to international pressure and overseas conditions: slotted in at record time, stoically bowled one tight over after another and spiced them up with crucial wickets,
+ Most fistpumping moments of the tournament ("Yes! Sohelwicket! Yes! Sohelwicket!....")
+ Best nickname: "Oh Sohel Mia"
+ Most cracking selection of the tournament: OK this actually goes to the DCB people in charge of selection.
+ Best German bowler of the tournament with 12 wickets at 14.41 a piece and an overall economy of 3.84. He finishes 5th in the bowling table.
|Rana Javed Iqbal|
Lifetime achievement award of the tournament
Rana Javed Iqbal. The German vice captain and untireable workhorse opening bowler again proved his value even with the bat, and would have deserved a MUCH better conclusion of his global cricket career. Second best German bowler of the tournament, finishes 7th in the bowling table with 10 wickets at 19.20 a piece.
Happy chap of the tournament
André Leslie, who scored his maiden 50 for Germany.
Unhappy chap of the tournament
Wicketkeeper Ajitabh 'Babu' Malviya. Had to try and celebrate his birthday after we had got all out for 69 against Fiji. However, Babu is also the second best wicketkeeper of the tournament with 11 dismissals, out of which 5 are stumpings. The best wicketkeeper (Botswana) has no stumpings! So Ajitabh and the spinners have worked together very well.
Best moment of the tournament
Wasantha De Silva bowling the last over against Botswana, keeping each of his nerves and taking the tenth wicket with the last ball of the match to secure the tie. Ranges in the same legendary category as that unbearable nailbiter against France that had essentially granted us entry into the World Cricket League.
Player most missed when not playing
Spin bear Shakeel Hassan ("Is Shakeel not playing today? Why is Shakeel not bowling? Why doesn't he bring on Shakeel already? How many overs has Shakeel left?")
Quo Vadis, Germany?
According to T20 International Germany have fallen 4 ranks in the one day ranking to #43 and lose 210 points. A rather useless stat at this point as we won't be playing any official one dayers any time soon. There are some factors that need to be given a very close look if we are to return to the World Cricket League in the near future. Improved joint practice of the national side is just one issue, but also the fact that Ghana beat us twice with a squad featuring players that were 15, 17 and 19 years of age and no one over 30 gives us food for thought.
In the spin department we are well armed, with Shakeel Hassan, Sohel Mia, who, so I hope, will despite his advanced age still stay around for a while, hopefully Farid Shah more often, Kashif Haider and the allrounders. What I'm concerned about is the batting, we are just not consistent enough to make enough runs and give the bowlers something to defend, and the fast bowling stocks need to be consolidated as well. All of our fast bowlers got smashed around and with Javed's dreaded withdrawal we lose the heart and mind of our attack.
Now after over a week of heated discussion with dozens of people involved, it may seem obvious that we need to draft homegrown talents into the side, but I am not so sure about how soon this should happen... some people say at the moment we might be stronger with players who come to Germany as finished articles. But that's left for the DCB to figure and sort out, as well as any other issues that might have played a role in our defeats.
We also need to improve our T20 performance significantly because this is the only way we can gain entry into the WCL again.
The draw for the European Division 1, the Euro T20 tournament that takes place in Sussex in July this year, looks like this:
Group A: Austria, Norway, Sweden, Guernsey, Italy
Group B: Germany, Denmark, Jersey, France, Belgium, Isle of Man
As followers of European cricket might notice, we ended up in the death group, and I don't expect any heroics from us this time around. So we need to see where we are in two years. Enough time to implement some of the systematic changes General Manager Brian Mantle mentioned in his interview.
On behalf of the team and the German Cricket Federation I would like to say a big thank you to all friends who voiced their support, followed the matches and also stayed around in the dark hours! Don't miss Germany at the Euro T20 in July. The final will be played at Hove!
Go the Germs!