Sunday, March 6, 2011

How the ICC ruined the World Cup

If the ICC had been in charge of the Last Supper, 47 associate apostles would have been invited. The bread and wine would have been provided by an official supplier, with centurions on the doors to keep out non-approved brands. The painting rights would have been sold to a manga outfit, who would have offered their images of the occasion to subscribers only. It would have surprised nobody if the catering had been franchised to a bacon sandwich company.
This is an organisation with a talent for removing the joy from life unmatched since Oliver Cromwell was in charge.
It has followed the test of fortitude that was the 2007 World Cup – endless matches in empty stadia, culminating in the finalists being sent out to finish the final in the dark when the assembled suits failed to interpret the playing conditions correctly – with a misconceived structure that consigns the first month of the 2011 tournament to irrelevance, and threatens once again to make mockery of the entire event.

For the benefit of those who don't follow these matters closely, this is how they've managed it: 
  • 14 teams are competing, at least four of which have no hope of seriously challenging the top eight (Ireland's wonderfully improbable win against England is no justification for this policy), resulting in a series of dire, one-sided games
  • four teams from each group of seven qualify for the quarter-finals so most cricket fans could pick seven of the eight before the tournament started, and even games between the big teams are largely meaningless as both begin these matches certain to progress; going straight to semi-finals would have made almost every game in the group stage important
  • two of the quarter-finals are under lights in Dacca, Bangladesh, where the side batting second has a huge advantage because of the dew that comes down at dusk
  • the schedule is unnecessarily elongated, with one game on most days and two on some; on Monday 7 March, for example, the sole attraction is Canada v Kenya, a game without any interest whatsoever
  • the rules said that the squads had to be be named a month in advance, while there was much ODI cricket to be played around the world; New Zealand, for example, are stuck with the out-of-form Jamie How instead of Rob Nicol, who was red hot in domestic cricket, and most teams are in a similar position (the reason for this was the need to print programmes – there's this thing called the internet...).
So for now I will ignore events in south Asia, and instead will post memories of the first three World Cup finals, all of which I had the pleasure of attending.

Arlott, Swanton and the Soul of English Cricket

In the same package as this year’s Wisden , there arrived Arlott, Swanton and the Soul of English Cricket , co-authored by Stephen Fay ...