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Saturday, November 11, 2023

ICC WC 2023 - Semi- line up confirmed - David Willey bids adieu

The preliminary stage of ICC WC 2023 is almost over, save one last match between India and Netherlands, result of which will only be of statistical purpose.  Today too, the results of Aus/Bangla and the other match were almost of nil impact. Some of you may be able to recognize this Cricketer turned Umpire.


West Indies are not playing in this – remember they won the inaugural WC in 1975 and repeated in 1979 before going down to Kapil Devils in 1983.  In mid 1970s and 1980s – they were so formidable that a tour to Windies was the most feared one – batsmen would be battered and bruised and some careers could end.  In 1983 when India toured Caribbean – S Venkatraghavan and Anshuman Gaekwad were recalled.   Similarly whenever England played Windies (remember that there were to be two white washes 5 test series) to stand against the dominant West Indies, England would play Peter Willey.  

Peter Willey  made his county debut for Northamptonshire in 1966 at the age of 16 as a right-handed batsman and offbreak bowler. As his career developed, he adopted what might be termed a marvellously eccentric batting stance, starting with his body totally chest-on to the bowler. In 1976 he made his Test debut against the West Indies at Headingley. The following year he made his one-day international debut against Australia  - he played loads of County cricket and later  was appointed to the first-class umpires' list in 1993 and three years later was on the international panel. It was ironic that the first Test in which he stood was West Indies v New Zealand in Bridgetown - the countries against which he appeared in his first and last Tests as a player. 

The defending champions, England have had a very poor WC.  Rob Key, their managing director, and Luke Wright, the national selector, are in India, speaking to captain Jos Buttler and coach Matthew Mott about selection for next month's tour of the West Indies. England play three ODIs and five T20Is there, and are expected to refresh both squads. Today England's margin of victory would have been more emphatic but for a carefree tenth-wicket stand of 53 between Wasim and No.11 Rauf, who belted three sixes in his 23-ball 35. But by then, both teams' thoughts had drifted away to the what-ifs. 

England's soon-to-be-deposed world champions bade farewell to the 2023 World Cup with a glimpse of their former domineering selves, as they marched to an emphatic 93-run win over Pakistan at Eden Gardens. Babar Azam's men are officially out of semi-final contention.  Once touted as a great match of the WC, today’s fixture paled to insignificance as   either team failed to live up to their pre-tournament expectations. Instead, both slipped out of the sidedoor among the also-rans, even if England's second victory in quick succession did confirm them a seventh-place finish in the group-stage standings, and a place at the 2025 Champions Trophy - the most pyrrhic of consolation prizes. 

Today David Willey made his  final appearance of his international career with a sparky all-round display that included his 100th and final ODI wicket.  Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid turned the screw on a spin-friendly surface to snuff out any pretence of a contest.


"I never wanted this day to come," Willey wrote in a post on his Instagram page. "From a young boy, I've only ever dreamed of playing cricket for England. So, with careful thought and consideration, it is with great regret that I feel the time has come for me to retire from all forms of international cricket at the end of the World Cup. "I have worn the shirt with immense pride and given my absolute everything to the badge on my chest. I've been very lucky to be a part of such an incredible white ball team with some of the best players in the world. I've made some special memories and great friends along the way and been through some very difficult times. 

David Jonathan Willey- attacking  left-arm quick and a clean-hitting batter first won him an international cap against Ireland in 2015 and he was regular member of England's ODI squads through that four-year cycle, but was squeezed out on the eve of the 2019 World Cup by the newly qualified Jofra Archer. David Willey announced that he will retire from international cricket at the age of 33 after England's final match at the World Cup in India, following the ECB's decision not to offer him a central contract for the 2023-24 cycle. 

Though Willey is among the few England players who have enhanced their reputation  - Willey and a handful will not be seen in future turning out for England.  David Willey has already announced his international retirement, and while there is no incentive for others to follow suit - they all have central contracts which run until September 2024 or beyond - there is widespread recognition that England need to rejuvenate. After all, 11 of their 15-man squad are aged 30 or older.  Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root have both expressed a desire to play on until the 2027 World Cup, but have managed 372 runs between them in this edition. Neither has scored a half-century in the last month, and their form has demonstrated the pitfalls of coming into the tournament with limited relevant practice. Chris Woakes said earlier this year that he would be "amazed" if he played another ODI after the World Cup, and looks certain to move on from the format. And while Mark Wood's three-year contract suggests that he will continue to be considered, his focus will primarily be on Test and T20 cricket. 

For those players who never feature again, this will not be the ending they had pictured. England boarded their flight to India six weeks back with high hopes of defending their title, yet find themselves scrambling for a Champions Trophy 2025 spot.

Cricket is a funny game and teaches a lot to the Teams too !
Bye bye Willey
With regards – S Sampathkumar

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