Not so much minnows as krill

Not surprisingly for a competition forced by its pool structure to go through the motions for a week, relevant cricket has been thin on the ground at the International Cricket Council Champions Trophy. The predicted poor turnouts and disconsolate weather have materialised, but where there’s a deadline there’s a headline, and frostbitten captains have been herded into press conferences to shrug and grumble about this and that.

Perhaps it’s the carpet shampoo or flower arrangements in these studios that induce taciturn moroseness. Certainly Ricky Ponting gave no impression on the field that playing the United States was a complete waste of time, as he later said it was.
Perhaps the beaming high-tens and jocular bum-pats that accompanied every inevitable wicket were an indication of the Australians’ desire to get back to the Jetmaster in the dressing-room.

All the same, Ponting did seem uncharacteristically fierce in his post-match trample on American cricketing dreams. After all, events like the World Cup and Champions Trophy — the two he cited as above the Yanks’ station in life — are hardly an Ashes Test on Boxing Day in Melbourne. They’re bonbons, grafted by graft on to an overburdened season, and possessing all the dignity, tradition and cricketing insight of a blacksmith slogging the cobbler over a distant cow and into a duckpond.

In fact if Ponting’s terse analysis was memorable for anything, it was his unflinching, almost wilfully naïve decision to refer to his opponents as ‘boys”. Given his team’s sporadic lapses into racial obscenity, he might have found a better word to describe a team of middle-aged black Americans, but he was too cold and too ticked off.

Patronising he may have been, but at least Ponting wasn’t guilty of perpetuating the great modern misnomer of the game: the insistence on referring to pathetic bands of no-hopers as ‘minnows”. Seldom have fish been so scandalously libelled.

Indeed, if they would stop eating earwigs and employ legal council, they would point out that they can control the direction they travel in, can avoid some larger predators and have fairly developed nervous system, attributes apparently entirely lacking in Bangladeshi and Kenyan cricketers.

At least Zimbabwe, quickly being demoted from minnow to krill to cricketing phytoplankton, momentarily choked Sri Lanka before being digested. Their defiance no doubt stuck in South Africa’s craw, too: nothing like watching two teenaged Zimbabwean rabbits add a rearguard 64 against the team that’s just wiped the floor with you to get those doubts creeping back.

Not that Graeme Smith’s troops were postponing their flights home after their drubbing of Bangladesh: the trouble with emphatic victories over the game’s nematodes is that one always feels that they could have been more emphatic. Dismissing the Asians for 93 was a tonic on paper, but as lovely as Charl Langeveldt’s opening spell was, the suicidal batting on display left us none the wiser.

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