The Big Fat Caribbean World Cup
The ICC cricket world cup 2007 begins on the 13th of this month. Or does it? The group stage of this world cup is so meaningless that you can sleep through the entire first fortnight and still wouldn’t have missed anything. All the top eight teams would have qualified. Why should I stay awake in the night to watch substandard matches and then be late for work?
The ICC in an effort to fill their coffers has made this the longest world cup in history. Hell, maybe even the longest of all sporting events. As an excuse to popularize the game in yet uncharted territories, they have included 5 teams from the associate cricket playing nations. This is in addition to Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Kenya and all the other major test playing teams taking the overall tally of participating teams to 16.
Mind you, I am not against the minnows playing in the world cup at all. But I can’t digest the bloated number of teams inducted into the tournament. The ideal situation, as the great Michael Holding suggested, would have been the inclusion of just the top ranked associate member team. With Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Kenya still needing a lot to improve this would have taken the total team tally to a more competitive number of 12 teams and would have brought down the number of matches considerably.
Cricket does not have the depth as in soccer to cause any real upsets in the group stages. While in soccer world cups the group stages are at least watchable due to strong performances from the Asian and African teams, cricket suffers because the associate member teams are yet to reach the standards required. This is inherently because of the complexity of cricket as a sport which requires a significant amount of time to come good in it. Rushing the smaller fishes into the company of sharks will only hasten their demise.
Right now nobody is happy with the situation other than the ICC and the broadcasting companies. They stand to gain good amounts of money from the advertisement time sold in this commercial friendly game. The players are not happy for obvious reasons. Their burden has been increased in an already over crowded calendar year of fixtures.
As for the minnows, the ICC believes that they will learn more about the game by getting slaughtered and embarrassed by the bigger teams. I wonder how any nation would be attracted to a sport where its players look like lambs at a slaughter house. If the ICC is really serious about spreading the game then it shouldn’t just be a once in four year effort. The top ranked associate countries must be played against better teams regularly. ‘A Team’ tours from other test playing nations to the associate countries would be the ideal solution for this.
But the ICC has forgotten the concern of its primary stake holder; the spectators. Who in his right mind would stay awake (in India) to watch India play Bermuda or Australia playing Scotland? This will boost up the ratings for a world cup which will anyway suffer due to the difference in time zone? The ICC is forgetting the basic principle of selling a product. You should sell what the customer wants and not try and thrust something they don’t want down their throats. Let’s hope that in an effort to spread the game Cricket does not lose the fans it already has.
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