Opinion: Difficult to comprehend……
Today I came across an australian news article that described the Irish Cricket team in the following manner:
“…. Ireland, a team made up of a handful of Australian tourists, a South African and some local tradesmen and office workers….”
Perhaps the objective is to show the amateur state of the team, but heard these constant comments consistently throughout the world cup as well once Ireland beat Pakistan and went through to super 8s.
There has been constant criticism about Ireland and Bangladesh making it through to the super 8s, and hence making the world cup ‘boring’. There has been talk that perhaps the format needs to be such that the better teams dont slip!.
I am quite confused about the line of thinking carried out by minnow bashers. This actually includes Bangladesh for the sake of this article because Bangladesh beating India has also been seen as something that should not be repeated!.
In my opinion, Bangldesh beating India is totally different from Ireland beating Pakistan. In one case, you had a country, that despite being weak, has 120 million crazy cricket fans, cricket is their number 1 sport, and they celebrated all night when their team went through. The other case was a little different, with the craze not being remotely close, but the interest certainly was there, a lot more than what Netherlands, Canada or perhaps even Kenya could have generated.
Now, what is problem in the first case?? Is Bangladesh not really a country? Is it not really a cricket mad country? Did they not play better cricket to beat India? Did they not beat SA (and nearly Eng) in the super 8s?
All this talk about the stands being empty, or about the world cup being a financial disaster, would probably not have been there had India made it through to the super 8s. The US based Indians, for whom the ticket prices had been kept high, would have shown up to back their team, and the stadiums would have been full, and if India had gotten to the final, that would have been the ultimate dream of the ICC come true. But how is it the ICC’s fault that India could not beat Bangladesh?
Until before the world cup, the talk was about why the minnows are playing in the first place when the matches against them are pointless and predictable. When that did not happen, and 4 upsets took place, now there is talk of the format being very bad.
What is difficult to understand is what exactly is wanted by the big 8? It seems that they would rather have a world cup with only 8 teams, i.e. themselves. So the only way for the ICC to ENSURE that would be to have a double league first round. What if Ireland were to beat Pakistan in the return game as well? Pakistan would have been knocked out in that case as well… and I am sure that neither India nor Pakistan would have been happy at that either.
Did people stop watching the FIFA WC Final in 2006 because Brazil was not there? Or did they not consider the second round as a valid one because the number 2 ranked team in the world, Czech Republic was not there? France beat Brazil in the semi final of that world cup, but Brazil was a stronger team, and if 10 matches were to be played, Brazil would have probably beaten France 7 times.
But that is not the point of the world cup, or any other tournament. If you want to watch Pakistan v India come what may, or Pakistan v Australia come what may, then the products that you are looking for are their bilateral series, not the world cup. World Cup may also provide you with match ups like these, but it is never gauranteed, and to me it is silly that you would want to gaurantee it.
A world cup is basically about big matches. The high pressure do or die games. I would probably like to see a world cup that has the first round, and then the quarters, semis and the final. That way, your team will end up playing at least 4 tough matches to win the world cup, and the duration would be much shorter as well. But when this formula was tried in 1996, it became quite farcical, not to mention that it doesnt get rid of the ‘problem’ that a good team may get knocked out early in the tournament.
I was reading on Cricinfo, one of the Pakistani bloggers, mentioning that the format needs to be such that minnows cannot ‘hijack’ a big 8 position easily. This is silly stuff. Pakistan had the easiest pool, and the super 8s proved it. WI came in 6th, and Ireland came in 8th. Pakistan had the weakest opposition in the world cup, and if they couldnt get their act together in either of these games, then tough for them.
In the 1983 WC, India won the final, but WI was the much much stronger team. Should there have been a best of 3 finals? No, it was a final, and the WI could not deliver; thats that. In the 1992 WC, both England and SA were stronger than Pakistan, and England was probably the more deserving team, but Pakistan was the champion. You can talk about the washed out game or whatever, the point remains that in the game that mattered, the final, England came up short.
Asking the wrong question will always lead to a wrong answer. Why was this world cup, or even the previous one, not as charming as the ones that used to take place before? One of the reasons is that there is so much cricket being played these days that people have seen it all before… very recently. For example, in the 1 year prior to the WC, India probably played every opposition. So what was the excitement in seeing it all over again? the second thing was that the Champions Trophy took place 6 months back in which you had the big 8 participating.
The main factor that will increase the appeal of the next world cup, if the format is the same, is how strong the 3rd teams are in the pool. Bangladesh we all know is going to be very strong in the 2011 edition. That leaves 3 other teams. Zimbabwe is probably not going anywhere, their exodus seems to be too much of a problem, and now they are in this limbo with the Australian govt as well. So the 3 teams that you can expect to improve and be seriously competitive are Ireland, Scotland and Kenya. I personally think that if the ICC were to work hard on these teams, then 4 years is a long enough time for these countries to improve dramatically. That would add not only a lot more excitement to the first round, but also reduce the possibility of a mismatch in the super 8s. That would then mean that a team would have to win 5 tough games to win a world cup with the quarter final format as well, which is quite a lot of games to win on a trot.
The minnow bashing is not coherent though. What exactly is the problem? The bigger problem, both in terms of following, attendence, and money was that India got knocked out, not Pakistan. Why was this event criticised? The winning country was not one where they thought cricket was an insect. I asked this question in one of the comments as well…. what if Netherlands, Canada were replaced by Afghanistan and Nepal? Then the question would have been that the standard is too low. Ireland showed that they have some following, and that they could also get into the official rankings, and now the problem is that they had Australian tourists playing in the team?!?! Passion for cricket does not grow on a tree, and even if it did (!?!), it doesnt do so overnight. It looks to me that we are not giving a country the oppurtunity to develop (or capitalize on) any passion, and then criticising them for the lack of it.
Strange. It looks to me that the old guard doesnt want anything to change. But as we can see from the Zim situation and also a bit from the WI situation, you cannot force someone to play or watch cricket. If people in WI are getting more attracted towards other sports, if people in Zim would not like to play a ‘colonial relic’, then why force them. Its just how history is, diffierent teams get interested, or disinterested in different sports over a course of history. Uruguay were soccer world champions in the 50s; Pakistan football team used to beat Japan 3-1 in the 60s 🙂