The 10 team 2015 World Cup …
About 6 months ago, the ICC announced that the 2015 WC in Australia would be a 10 team world cup, cut down from the 14 team even from 2011. The reason was simple; the games involving the associates were considered pointless mismatches, their successes were considered a threat to attractive teams being knocked out of the world cup. From its own perspective, ICC tried to create a best of both world model in 2007 by having 16 teams, and then having a super 8 round. The 2 month long world cup became a complete drag as Pakistan were knocked out by Ireland, and more importantly for ICC, India was knocked out by Bangladesh. The potential Pakistan vs India game was the first sellout of the 2007 world cup, with the diaspora in the US buying week long vacation packages to the caribbean to attend that game. For those who couldnt cancel their purchases, it only turned out to be a Bangladesh vs Ireland game. Additionally, the broadcasters also complained to the ICC about the losses they were incurring with India having been knocked out within 1 week of the 2 month long tournament.
Commerce cannot be ignored. The ICC tried to make a format this year that was considered to be a lot better for everyone once again. Pretty much all the expected teams should still make the quarter finals unless they lose to all full members in their pool for the 2011 edition. The problem with this one is 1) the length of the tournament, probably needs to be 2 weeks shorter and 2) errr, in most people’s books, the whole first month is pointless, given that there is no upset. Out of the 42 first round games, 30 involve associates, Zim or Bangladesh. At least on paper, the stronger teams expect these to be mismatches (except for maybe NZ vs Bangladesh!)
From the commerce perspective, and from the perspective of people in the big 8 Full members who dont care much about associates and rather care about entertaining games, and from a tournament length perspective, the decision for the 10 team world cup seems to be correct.
Except for the fact that by restricting it to 10 teams, the ICC has taken away the most fundamental reason a person plays cricket and tries to improve his game in most of the associates … they have taken away the goal. They have taken away the chance to perform at a world stage. By what reasoning will someone in Kenya, or Ireland or Afghanistan be encouraging a kid to pick up the sport?
I will give some respect to ICC and say that they will not take the silly step of restricting the cup to 10 full members. If they did that, then the whole point of World Cricket League divisions, the ICC Trophy etc will become pointless. I am assuming that they will have some kind of a qualifier, perhaps a qualifying league featuring the bottom 3 full members and the top 3 qualifiers from ICC trophy from where only 3 will qualify for the world cup. That would at least not kill the hope, but it would still be an unfair fight given the funding disparities, high standard playing oppurtunities, between the full members and the associates. But at least it would not kill hope, and I dont see any other way to restrict to 10 teams.
But here I have a concern, not about the associates, but about World Cup in general. Lets assume the best scenario for the associates. Zim, Ban, WI end up in the qualifier, and all three lose out. Is it possible to have a world cup without the West Indies, almost 3 times world champions? Keep the entire Carribean from watching passionately because their team is not in the world cup? Or is it possible to have a world cup without Bangladesh? The only country which would have 40K people sitting in the stadium watching an U19 World Cup final between Pakistan and West Indies ! Is it possible to leave out 150M cricket mad people like that?
One thing we should understand; Cricket is NOT football. There are only a handful of countries where the game is passionately followed. The countries have been part of an exclusive club for 100 years. The exclusivity is the problem, but that doesnt mean that the countries themselves should not be there. Not until you start getting to 15 teams that can all win the world cup can the ICC seriously think of kicking out full members from the World Cup.
Some variations that could have been done in the existing world cup perhaps would have solved the issue to some extent. (1) Have 2 associates instead of 4, and basically a 12 team world cup. This would have reduced the cup by 12 associate games. The second thing could have been to have 2 Quarter finals instead of 4; the top team in every pool going directly to the semi final, while the second and third teams from each pool need to playoff for the remaining 2 slots. This would have made the first round less pointless as one ‘expected’ team would also get knocked out. (Btw, I would just like to mention here that I do think that will happen anyway with WI losing out to Bangladesh in 2011).