The media’s focus may firmly be on superstars like Kohli, de Villiers, Finch and McCullum as they seek to lift the coveted World Cup trophy.
But while they may be less well known, George Dockrell and Josh Davey are equally determined to use the opportunity to show off their own skills and prove an important point on behalf of their nations.
For like all players representing associate cricket nations at this year’s World Cup, there’s an even greater imperative to do well.
As Dockrell and Davey rub shoulders with the biggest names in the game, their respective Ireland and Scotland sides are looking not just to win games of cricket and compete, but to justify their places at cricket’s premier global event.
Like fellow associate nation Afghanistan, Ireland, whose tournament got underway against the West Indies on Sunday night, are making a serious case to be admitted as a Test nation and have made huge strides in standards and administration in recent years. Scotland too has raised its game significantly, with the recent input from the likes of former England captain Paul Collingwood and Somerset Director of Cricket Matt Maynard.
So it’s ironic that as the associates start to repay the faith invested in them, the ICC has decided this will be last World Cup to feature 14 teams. The next tournament in England in 2019, will be by contested by just 10 teams – the top eight in the ICC rankings plus two teams from a qualifying event to be held in Bangladesh in 2018.
As Tim Wigmore and Peter Miller point out in their excellent new book on associate cricket, ‘Second XI: Cricket in its Outposts’, cricket is showing a uniquely perverse inclination to contract rather than grow the game worldwide and limit the opportunities for associate nations to compete against the best and raise their standards further.
If it’s possible then that the next four weeks may be the last opportunity for associate nations to play World Cup cricket for some time, Dockrell, Davey and their team mates have a huge incentive to prove the ICC wrong and show they can command and deserve a place belong on the global stage in their own right. Indeed, Ireland’s famous victory over the West Indies on Sunday night may cause sleepless nights for some of the lower ranked Test nations ahead of that qualifying event in Bangladesh in two years’ time.
Both Somerset players taking part in this year’s World Cup go into the tournament with some excellent performances in the recent warm-up competitions behind them.
Davey became only the fifth player in one-day international history to take six wickets and score more than 50 runs in the same match, when he hit an unbeaten 53 and took 6-28 to skittle Afghanistan out for just 63 and set up a massive 150-run victory for his side in last month’s Dubai tri-series competition. In the process, the 24-year-old also became the first associate cricketer to take six wickets in an innings in ODIs.
Born in Aberdeen, Davey has been playing international cricket since 2010, making an immediate impression with figures of 5-9 in an ODI against Afghanistan. Two years later, his three wickets for 23 runs helped set up a Scotland victory over Bangladesh in a T20 international, their first ever against an ICC Full Member.
Despite losing his international place for the World Cup qualifiers early last year, Davey returned in time to take 3-28 in a rain-affected ODI against England in May. He has been a regular in the Scotland side ever since and made his World Cup debut against New Zealand in Dunedin last night.
Meanwhile, Dockrell returned excellent figures of 4-35 to pass 50 ODI wickets in the same Dubai tri-series tournament last month.
His talent was spotted at a very early age and he was called to make his international debut for Ireland as a 17-year-old in 2010 and offered a county contract by Somerset just before he turned 18.
Dockrell played a key role in Ireland’s 2010 World Twenty20 campaign, taking taking 3-16 against the West Indies and tying up England’s middle-order with four overs for 19.
Before the West Indies game, Ireland captain William Porterfield reflected on Dockrell’s initiation into international cricket and how much he had developed since.
He told the Cricket Ireland website: “Yeah, Dock has been a big player for us since he came in. I think he was thrown in at the deep end really. McCallan and Regan West both got injured and retired within the space of probably a few months, and he got chucked into the Twenty20 qualifiers and his first World Cup. Pretty much his third or fourth game would have been in the World Cup.
“He swam really. Like he literally got chucked in the deep end and he’s doing very well, and he’s always improving. It’s easy to forget how young he still is. “He’s only about 22 and he’s been around for quite a while. He’s obviously a big player for us, as are a few lads. I’m sure he’ll be looking to go out there and impress, as well.”
While dreams of a World Cup run will be uppermost in both players’ minds, the World Cup also offers Dockrell and Davey a chance to gain invaluable experience and stake an early claim for a place in domestic cricket for Somerset ahead of the approaching county season.
For some time Somerset’s first choice spinner, Dockrell finished 2014 out of the side. Max Waller was preferred for much of the T20 campaign with Jack Leach playing in the championship run-in and most of the 50 over tournament. A niggling shoulder injury in early September did not help Dockrell’s cause and also led him to miss that month’s three ODIs in Dublin against Scotland.
The Irishman did take 21 first-class wickets for Somerset in nine games last season at an average of 35.76, although it’s fair to say he didn’t receive a lot of help from final-day wickets at Taunton. He played only five T20 games and two 50-over matches throughout the whole summer and will hope to get far more opportunities this year.
While overseas signing Abdur Rehman will almost certainly start the championship campaign, Maynard has indicated he intends to play two spinners through much of the season. Competition for places with Leach and Waller will be intense and a successful World Cup run would come at a perfect time for Dockrell. The tight control he showed on Sunday night against the West Indies in Hamilton – and his final match figures of 3-50 – was an excellent start.
Davey has yet to play first-class or List A cricket for Somerset, but had a very solid year for the Seconds last year and impressed many.
He has already demonstrated his determination by paying his own way to train with Somerset after being released by Middlesex towards the end of the 2013 season after three years with the county. He spent the whole of that winter training with the Somerset squad, without payment, determined to have another crack at first class cricket.
He was rewarded with a contract last year and had an early opportunity to impress Maynard before most of the other members of the Somerset side, as the incoming Director of Cricket fulfilled a pre-existing commitment to coach the Scotland squad at a batting camp in Dubai last autumn.
With the Overtons, Gregory, Thomas, Groenewald, Allenby, Trego and Dibble ahead of him in the queue, Davey probably has his sights set on one-day cricket to break into the Somerset senior side this year. In which case the World Cup could not be better preparation.
However, with Thomas and Craig Overton still recovering from injury and Maynard’s stated intention to rotate his seam attack, a decent run in the World Cup for Davey – which started with a return of 3-40 in the defeat to New Zealand last night – could yet help him press an early claim for a place in the County Championship side.
We wish Josh and George all the very best for their World Cup campaigns over the coming weeks and look forward to following their progress here on The Incider. Look out for a report on Ireland’s win over the West Indies on the site very soon.