Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Saving the ICC from their own stupidity

Today brought the very welcome news that the 10-team World Cup format may not be so final after all. If they want to maintain the integrity of the sport by making the World Cup more than just an invitational trophy, the ICC face some difficult decisions - made all the more so by their own essential impotence. When the 10 full members run the game, it is easy to see why self-interest reigns supreme.

So it may well prove difficult for the ICC to get enough of the full members to vote for a qualification tournament; Bangladeshi and Zimbabwean turkeys are unlikely to be great fans of Christmas. Instead they may try and devise a new format. To the greatest degree possible, it must (a) match the ICC's TV contract with ESPN-Star, which requires a minimum of 48 games in the World Cup and (b) ensure India play as many games as possible. These are the depressing realities.

Within these not inconsiderable constraints, what is the best we can hope for?

My proposal would be for two groups of six, which would make for 30 round-robin games.
Ideally I would then like the group winners to progress to the semi-finals, and the second and third sides to play off against each other, but that format would mean the ICC would have to pay a lot of compensation.

Alternatively - and more financially viable (how depressing it is how finances cannot be separated from any discussion of World Cup formats) - the top four could go into a Super Eight phase. Now, I know - cricket has not had good experiences with Super Eights / Sixes in 50-over World Cups.

But two groups of four, along the lines of the format used in the World Twenty20, would possess an excitement wholly lacking in the miserable 2007 tournament, when the Super Eights seemed to never end.

These groups could consist of the top and fourth ranked side from group A in the opening stages, alongside numbers two and three from group B (and visa versa). No points would be carried forward, as this is always liable to be messy. But crucially, the positions of any sides level on points after the Super Eights would be determined by what position they finished in the first round groups. This would create a real incentive for sides to win their groups in the first round - one conspicuous by its absence in the recent tournament.

There would therefore by 12 Super Eight games (each side playing the others in their group), bringing the total number of games to 42. Add in semis, a third-placed play-off and the final and that brings us to 46, minimising the damage to the ICC.

Perhaps it's not quite ideal - what tournament structure is? - but this format both protects the full members and gives an incentive to the associates to progress. Above all, it would create a much more vibrant and exciting tournament than the current planned format for 2015.

We'll see what is announced at the ICC's meeting in June. In the meantime, what an opportunity for Ireland. If they were to win one of their two ODIs against Pakistan in May, let alone both, while getting large crowds in, the case for the reversal of the scandalous decision would grow greater still.

7 comments:

Live Cricket said...

I hope the small teams get equal opportunity. Its good for the sport.

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I like this proposed tournament structure, it is good for the game of cricket Indeed what an opportunity for the Irish Cricket team.

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