7 June 2019

Zimbabwe: World Cup Without Rest of the World

If reality had not yet sunk in, it finally did when cricket's World Cup roared into last Thursday, with hosts England defeating out-of-sorts South Africa at The Oval.

For a lot of Zimbabwean fans, our team's absence from the tournament -- too conspicuous to ignore -- will ever be attributed to that fateful qualifying match against little United Arab Emirates in March 2018, when the minnows stunned Zimbabwe with a shock Super Six win to deny us a place in the World Cup for the first time since 1983.

To me, watching the West Indies crush Pakistan on Friday to get off to a flyer in the 2019 World Cup was a particularly bitter pill to swallow.

While we will always look back to that UAE game with great regret, it should never be forgotten how the narrative would have been different had the International Cricket Council (ICC) used the Umpire Decision Review System (DRS) during the qualification tournament in Zimbabwe last year.

In the end it all came down to that crucial final Super Six tie for Zimbabwe, but call it sour grapes if you want -- our narrow four-wicket defeat to the West Indies before the UAE game would probably not have been the case had the DRS been part of the event.

From a Zimbabwean perspective, there were few contentious decisions that would have been in our favour if the DRS was on.

A win over the West Indies in that game would have sealed qualification with the UAE match to spare. Not having the DRS in such an important event, where a lot is at stake -- a place in the World Cup -- was a terrible oversight by the ICC. Let us see how far the West Indies goes in this World Cup. They are too unpredictable, a dangerous unit on their day and if they are up for it, the men from the Caribbean are more than capable of hurting any of the teams in that tournament.

But the Windies really should be the first to admit that they were a little bit lucky to even qualify for the tournament.

As of the ICC, this World Cup has presented a huge test for the game's governing body. The DRS debacle in the qualifiers took centre stage even before the main event itself -- perhaps an unwanted sideshow for the ICC.

Now that the World Cup is finally underway, ICC now needs to be vindicated, to prove that the idea of a 10-team tournament was, in fact, good for the game, not meant to turn this competition into an inclusive event of a few nations as it used to be before.

One feels that there are four to six more teams that ought to be playing in the World Cup. These teams will be watching from the sidelines, hoping that at the end of this particular edition, sense will prevail that an elitist structure does not really make this look like a World Cup in the eyes of the sporting world.

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