Relegation confirmed for Fiji
Anything that could have gone wrong for Fiji has done in the World Cricket League Division 5 tournament being played in Nepal.
Josaia Baba didn't take his place on tour. Captain Joe Rika badly injured a thumb on day one and has been restricted when batting throughout. Star bowler Sakaraia Lomani missed the opening two matches. Against Nepal Joji Bulabalavu was stretchered from the ground with a knee injury while fielding and was unable to bat later in the day. Fortunately, scans revealed no structural damage and he will avoid the dreaded reconstruction. During the same game, coach Steve Jenkin had to leave the ground for medical attention due to illness.
While it is unlikely that these incidents have prevented Fiji from winning the competition, they have probably made certain that the Pacific Islanders will be relegated to division 6.
Today Fiji would be without Maciu Gauna, the top scorer in the previous game against Nepal and Tukana Tavo, who recorded the best bowling figures that day. Bulabalavu will take no further part in the tournament.
It's been a wretched campaign.
Lee Waqa was recalled to the side for today's game, with just one international wicket to his credit. After two overs he had taken that tally to three.
Lomani dismissed the dangerous Adil Hanif for 37 to have Bahrain 63 for 3. While wickets were tumbling runs were being leaked at an alarming rate.
Greg Browne had Imran Sajjad caught by Joe Rika for 30 and Jikoi Kida bowled a badly needed maiden over.
The Bahrain batsmen continued to get themselves out just as they were set but boundaries were still flowing regularly.
Tahir Dar is a wonderful middle order batsman. Some say he bats too low down in the order but he is a fine finisher as demonstrated by another wonderful knock of 54 from 30 balls today. Azeem-ul-Haq (41), Fahad Sadeq (21), Qamar Saeed (21) and Yaser Sadeq with 16 not out, pushed the Bahrain total up to 276. Waqa finished with 10-1-74-4.
Fiji haven't looked like scoring anywhere near 276 in this competition and once again the top order crumbled.
Iniasi Cakacaka and Kida put together a 44 run fourth wicket partnership to take the score from three to 47 but it was soon 60 for 6 when Dabea fell for two and Kida for 17.
Peni Rika (29) and Lomani (40) gave the scoreboard a look of respectability sharing a stand of 72. Lomani's knock featured 4 sixes.
Waqa finished off the innings with a couple more sixes before the Fijians were bowled out for 181.
Tahir completed a fine all-round game by taking 4 for 19. Bahrain - winners by 95 runs.
Fiji now know for certain that they will be competing in the next WCL Division 6 tournament and they have plenty of time to plan and make improvements.
How long will it be before they go down the path taken by so many other sides and encourage passport holders and expats to form the basis of their national side?
It would be a great disappointment but who could blame them?
This tournament has once again shown that countries that don't develop indigenous, homegrown or majority population players are not disadvantaged. Far from it. They are winning. They can thank their country's immigration policy and an economy that provides job opportunities for those from far flung lands.
It isn't a crisis just yet but it is heading that way very quickly.
In truth, the ICC's development program is losing credibility because of it. Countries that are teaching the game to the least are beginning to gain the most.
Anyone who has lived in a country where there are very few cricket wise expats knows just how hard it is to develop the sport. Kids have to be taught even the most basic cricketing skills. Coaches, development officers, volunteers and administrators are having to build the sport from scratch. Yet the ICC does not take this into account when allocating funds.
Make no mistake, there are many long time supporters of the development program who are disillusioned by the way some countries are exploiting the system.
Moreover, many countries are now pushing ethics to the limit and succeeding. They talk a good development game but don't deliver on it and in some cases have refused to do so going back to the early days of the program in 1997.
If a country like Japan can tap into the majority population and develop indigenous cricketers then any country can but only if they want to of course.
The ICC needs to revamp the eligibility criteria before the World Cricket League turns into a contest between countries who are lucky enough to have the biggest population of migrants from the Commonwealth.