A plea for a better World CupGaneshbabu Venkat |
I have been of the firm opinion that people who run ICC do not watch the game. I could go one step further and claim that they don’t know much about cricket or rather don’t care about the game or its fans. For a long time they have remained a spineless organization, whether making serious cricketing decisions or imperative administrative decisions. Any experiment that the ICC started in recent times, both cricket and logistical, has either been done away or was lacking common sense. The abandoned super-sub rule in the ODIs, the referral system, the sham that was the 2007 World Cup Final; these are all glaring examples.
The list continues to grow with ICC releasing the groups and the schedule for the 2011 World Cup to be held in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh with much fanfare. The ICC chief Haroon Lagoot exuded confidence when talking about the importance of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 and eloquently articulated the following:
“This announcement is an important indicator of the excellent progress we are making towards our flagship event which brings together teams from all our Members in nation-versus-nation action, Preparation of venues and safety and security planning continues and I am confident that the host countries will showcase our great sport with its great spirit in the best possible light.”
Lorgat said the 2011 format was slicker, competitive and exciting. “It is fair to say that it is almost a week less than the previous edition and that in itself should help make it more concise,” Lorgat said. “But we have done everything, bearing in mind that there are 14 teams competing across three countries so you’ve got to take logistics into account, so I hope it is a slicker than the previous World Cup.”
His wish is to make it a world class tournament, however those statements sound like nothing but empty rhetoric. First of all ICC has failed to adopt a standard format for their showpiece event, which happens once every four years. We have had nine World Cups and six formats. Four different formats have been used over the last five tournaments and except for 1992 and 1999, all have failed miserably. This leaves the fans, you and me, wondering if we are going to see a decent tournament this time around. If you ask me that question, the answer will be a resounding no.
This begs me to ask the question what the need to have 14 teams is in the 2011 World Cup? The charm and quality of the tournament is diluted first of all by the entire Test playing nations not getting a chance to play each other and secondly by the inclusion of an excessive number of associate teams like Canada, Kenya, Netherlands and Ireland. Don’t get me wrong, I do not have anything against these associates and I’m totally in agreement that these teams need exposure at the top level but sadly the World Cup is not the stage to do that and ICC have failed to realize that even after so many years and so many World Cups.
The other thing that irks me is that these associates have neither a regular domestic structure (except Netherlands and Ireland) nor are comprised of home-grown talented youngsters, instead we see a bunch of expatriates, rejects and 40 year old Sunday leaguers from various Test playing nations, who have migrated to these countries parading as international cricketers and representing these associate nations. We have seen time and again that the associates produce a flash in a pan performance and fade away in to oblivion in that very tournament. People who argue in favor of an excessive number to be included must have selective amnesia or are living in denial, I would like to remind them of a simple fact that in the last four World Cups we have seen two upset results, Kenya defeating West Indies in the 1996 world cup and Ireland defeating Pakistan in the 2007 competition. We all know what state Kenyan cricket is in today. Ireland is no better either and they are talking about applying for a full member status.
ICC has yet again shot themselves in the foot by coming up with a format that serves no purpose for the group games over a period of 18 days. The format is appalling to say the least and as one author put it this is the perfect dead-rubber World Cup or rather should I say a dead World Cup. The smart alecks who came up with this format have 14 teams divided in to two groups of seven each and the top four from each group qualifying for the quarter finals, from then on it’s sudden death. This format neither does justice to the 42 meaningless group games nor rewards the teams that have performed well in the group stages. ICC might as well put a hat and select the eight teams to play in the quarter finals. The format is probably the biggest joke and a slap on the face of the fans. In effect the format takes 42 games to eliminate six teams that are not deemed good enough to go to the quarter finals and just seven more games to select the world champion and eliminate those teams that were deemed good enough to vie for the title of the world champion with a single knock out blow.
One-sided cricket matches can be boring as hell and it’s not like football where the viewer has to put up with just an hour and half worth of this charade. 50 over games last for a day and boring one-sided games could leave a stale taste for the viewer who would be deterred away from the very format that the ICC is trying hard to protect, talk about counter-productivity. With Twenty20 taking the cricketing world by storm and people and the players embracing it, ODIs are an endangered species. At this hour one-sided games and this dead format are the last thing that we want to see. However ICC has come up with a format that will serve the viewer with 24 such games involving Ireland, Netherlands, Canada and Kenya. Of course we could see an upset or two on the way and ICC would have had the justification for this format and the inclusion of more than two associates.
Again this does not undermine any of the efforts taken by the associates to perform well in international cricket; nevertheless World Cup is simply not the stage. There is no reason to reward an associate team that cannot be in the top two of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier tourney. No one will be interested in a game between Canada and Sri Lanka or India and Netherlands.The games involving these teams are going to be a farce to say the least. We have seen this many times and we are going to see it again. Sadly the ICC has forgotten that the fans are the ultimate bosses, without us going to the games or seeing them on TV the game would not exist. Yet they go on with their cheery ways under the pretext of globalization to devalue the game.
If ICC wants to become like FIFA they should adopt a standard format for their marquee event. And here is something for them to start with; the best format would be to have 12 teams divided in to two groups of six each, with two associates, the winner and runner of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier tourney participating in the World Cup. The top four from each group qualify for the super eight’s and we would still have 49 games only. Alternatively, have qualifiers like the FIFA world cup with spots for just 12 teams; let all the Test playing and associate nations participate in that. The old stale argument of “expanding the game” should be put aside and the associate nations should be given a feel of international cricket by including them as the fourth team in the triangular tournaments played amongst Test playing nations. They should also be allowed to partake in the domestic leagues of their neighbors. They can be allowed to participate in Twenty20s; hit or miss cricket. These teams will benefit by playing these first-class matches rather than throw them to the wolves to face high quality international teams like Australia and South Africa in the 50 over format. These are some common sense approaches to start with. However, with the ICC being known for committing stupidity of stunning proportions at every given opportunity, they would not do that and the quote “common sense ain’t so common” holds true in every sense of the word.