Nine months have passed since the end of the last cricket World Cup. And seven since an article came up about the same. I’m sure in a few days’ time, the English organizers of the 2019 WC in England will finalise the pools and allot matches to venues on fixed dates. It is at this eleventh hour that I want to reignite the debate. What should be the number of teams playing in that competition? And what should be the format of the competition?
Well, isn’t it ridiculous that every World Cup since 1987 has had its format / number of teams participating tampered with? Not to mention the ODI playing rules that is tempered every October. Let me first talk about the number of teams that ought to be participating.
The biggest argument of the people who are batting for the 10 team competition is that the games were too one sided and predictable in the last two editions. Well, I would say they are only half right. Suggesting a ten team WC to reduce one sided boring games is like suggesting a four day test match to attract more patrons.
If you see the 2011 WC, you see that that the Dutch team and the Kenyan team went back without a win. That’ll say they were beaten even by the other minnows. And the games between the minnows were too many and insignificant from the tournament’s point of view. I remember the game between Canada and Kenya in Delhi. The spectators were not more than 500, in a city of 20 million. And it was later found out that all the spectators were friends and family members of the Indo Canadian players in that match. I have played in front of much larger crowds. In 2015, you had Scotland playing Afghanistan and UAE playing Ireland, in some tiny New Zealand grounds. You can squarely put the blame on these teams for the rebirth of the 10 team WC.
By keeping a ten team WC you are killing cricket in the associate countries. We don’t want that to happen. Cricket should slowly spread its wings and become bigger. Now 14 teams seem like too many, 10 seem like too little. I honestly believe that if a Zimbabwe can qualify, so should an Ireland or an Afghanistan. These two teams have a great heart and a voracious hunger to succeed, and it is pure joy to see them play. To suggest that only three among Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ireland, West Indies and Zimbabwe will play in the next WC is a grave injustice to the great game we all love. On current form, each of these five teams deserves to play the World Cup.
Now the format: No, the Quarterfinal thing is unfair. It should be done away with. For example, in 2011, West Indies lost to India, England, SA and still made it to the QF on virtue of beating Bangladesh, Ireland and Netherlands. Even this time, they lost to Ireland, India and SA quite convincingly. Frankly, it would have horribly bad if NZ, after winning six games and losing none were to slip against WI in the QF. Teams that finish in the bottom half shouldn’t be given a shot at glory. Hence, we have to go back to the 1999 format. The Super Six stage. This gives each of the six teams a fair chance to make it to the Semis. But the Super Six stage of the 1999 and 2003 WC carried an inherent flaw within them. That is the way the points were carried from the group stages to the super sixes. The teams need to carry all the points gained from the group stages. The best four after the super sixes must make it to Semis. Otherwise it will create the bizarre scene that was created in the 2003 WC in South Africa. Sri Lanka, Kenya and NZ qualified from a group. Kenya had upset SL and NZ had forfeited the match against Kenya.This created a situation that required Kenya to win only one out of the three Super Six games to reach the semi finals ( which they surprisingly did, beating Zimbabwe) and NZ had to win all the three games to have a chance of qualifying for the Semis. This is an unfair, non level playing field. The same situation was India’s in the 1999 WC. They lost to Zimbabwe and SA (who qualified to Super sixes) at the group stage and hence had to win each of the three games. When they lost the first match, there was no way they could have qualified to the SF. NZ qualified for the Semis despite winning only one of the three games. How times change!
Anyway, it doesn’t require a separate mention to realise that had the teams carried all their points and NRR from the group stages, the resultant Semi-finalists would have been different in each of the cases where Super Sixes were used.
The Super Sixes were good. Even Rahul Dravid suggested that the 1999 WC format is the most ideal format for WC. Now to shun that format just because it is unfair to some is like chopping off your nose for catching a cold!
Simple: The super six matches need to be considered just like group matches. After the Super sixes are complete the top four teams, by counting points and NRR from the beginning of the competition must go on to play the Semi finals. The next World cup will be in England, where it rains all summer. So, instead of playing hide and seek with the DLS methods using complex mathematical tables, all games from Super Six onwards need to have a reserve day. I fondly remember India beating England over two days, on 29 and 30th of May 1999. We must try to reward the top teams in the competition by giving them a fair chance.
My take for the 2019 WC:
- 12 teams
- 1999 WC format sans the points carrying forward system.
Just try this format once, and I promise ICC and the organisers that after the WC is over, you can reflect back and assure yourself that you couldn’t have made it any more fairer- to the top performing teams, top performing associates and the audience who love this game.
The author Anoop Srinivas is in Twitter with the username @anoopsri.