Wednesday, April 06, 2011

How to run the 2015 Cricket World Cup

The Cricket World Cup 2011 is behind us and it will fade rapidly and disappear from our consciousness. Especially perhaps in England, South Africa and Australia - but even in the sub-continent where there was more to celebrate. Will the lessons of the tournament be learned by the participants and especially the International Cricket Council (ICC)?

For the ICC the 2007 Cricket World cup was a disaster. It dragged on from March 13th to April 28th and India and Pakistan failed to make it beyond the Group stages - unfancied Ireland and Bangladesh took the places in the next stage that had been pre-ordained for these two money-spinning nations. So for a month we had a tournament without India and Pakistan and the sub-continent, Sri Lanka aside, switched off. Never again said the ICC - so for the 2011 tournament no risks were taken. The eight main Test nations were virtually guaranteed a quarterfinal place, which they duly took. Although England made life difficult for a while by losing to Ireland and Bangladesh, which they weren't supposed to do! For India and Pakistan it was mostly plain sailing, as it was meant to be - and as the ICC's sponsors demanded.

So what of 2015 - the next tournament? First, you would think, there has to be an acknowledgement that we have twelve decent One-Day International sides. There is the top ten - the eight big beasts plus Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. The last mentioned might be a question mark but they are full members of the ICC and surely by 2015 their nation will have restored a semblance of normality and their cricket as well? Then there is Ireland who have performed brilliantly in the last two World Cups beating Pakistan and England along the way. And The Netherlands who ran England close this time around and are a team comprised of more then decent limited overs cricketers.

The ICC, however, has decided that Ireland and The Netherlands will be excluded from the 2015 tournament. It is to say the least discouraging to these two cricket nations whose improvement in recent years has been marked. And the decision makes to logistic sense either. There are virtually no disadvantages to having a 12-team tournament compared with a 10-team one. So what is the solution?

In 2015 the Cricket World Cup should comprise 12 teams. Recognising the need for the ICC and the member countries to maximise their income streams there should be a Group phase with the twelve teams divided into two six team Groups. This would mean 30 matches in total in the Group stages which with two matches per day and allowing for travelling and rest time would last about three weeks. Then the top four teams in each Group would progress to the Quarterfinals and so on. Another couple of weeks maximum. A five week tournament - long for sure but much shorter than 2007 or 2011 (19th February - 2nd April). The key would be the scheduling of the Group matches. By playing two matches per day the overall duration is limited - but with Australia and New Zealand crossing five time zones and allowing for a mix of Day and Day/Night matches the television clashes can be minimised. It's perfectly feasible. Over to you ICC !

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