The worst fears of cricket fans are coming true. Not a single match in the ongoing World Cup has produced a decently close contest till date. And with six of the 14 teams not in the top league, there are further disasters in store unless something extraordinary takes place and brings the tournament back to life. This is really sad since this was supposed to be the showpiece event of the under fire 50-over format. However, on the evidence so far, nothing much will change, at least till the quarterfinal stage arrives and the minnows pack their bags. As the legendary Imran Khan aptly termed it on a cricket show of a leading news channel, it is ‘excruciating’ to watch. We can’t agree more.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has got things totally wrong. The schedule of the tournament is such that most of the mismatches have been clubbed successively and the games between the top teams are few and far between. Who would be interested in such one-sided games? The crowds have already given their verdict, if one looks at the sparse crowd that has turned out for most of the games so far, leaving apart the opener between India and Bangladesh. Unfortunately, even that ended up as a rather one-sided encounter. A lot was expected of the home side, following their impressive showing in recent times. However, while the batting clicked, the bowling was far from that of international standards.
In an irony of sorts, the ICC on the eve of the tournament came out and announced that the next edition would encompass only the 10 best teams. While it was a sensible decision, the timing for revealing the same couldn’t have been worse. The lowly-ranked teams are already here. And, as if the bashing they get on the field from far superior sides isn’t harrowing enough, this latest ICC decision will only make matters tough for them. Of course, they have at last come up with the right move. But, it has only left one wondering… why now? What were they doing when the schedule and format for the ongoing World Cup was being decided? If only they had been more proactive, a major disaster in the making named the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 could have been avoided. It’s too late to make any amends for the current folly. And all the ICC and die-hard cricket lovers from hereon can do is wait for the big clashes and hope the likes of Kenya, Netherlands and Canada somehow produce a somewhat better display in the days to come.
Expectedly, the ICC’s decision hasn’t gone down well with the minnows. Most of them have hit back at the cricketing council over the decision. Of course, they have every right to be aggrieved, particularly over the timing of the announcement as mentioned earlier. It is actually nothing sort of an insult — you are first invited and then told, sorry you are not welcome anymore. However, as Australian skipper Ricky Ponting pointed out, one is not sure whether the World Cup is the right place for the associate teams to hone their skills and also how much these teams are actually improving by getting thrashed day in and day out. That said, there should be a way out else cricket would get stagnant with just eight top teams, excluding Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. The latter two teams have done well enough to be part of the premier tournament. And world cricket needs the other associate teams to step up to that level first to compete in the topmost. 50-over tournament. And that isn’t going to happen by them getting bashed by in the World Cup games.
Unfortunately, the ICC’s alternate ploy doesn’t sound coherent either. The cricketing body out of the blue feels that the minnows have a better chance to compete in the T20 edition of the World Cup as opposed to the 50-over one. Their rationale behind this thinking is that with lesser overs, they have a greater chance of competing. And, while that might be true to an extent, one wonders how much these teams can improve by taking part in a T20 tournament. After all, a bowler gets to bowl only 4 fours and most of the batsmen do not even a get a hit out in the middle. How then is that a way to improve and hone one’s skills? Only the ICC can answer that. Also, what is the guarantee that the crowds won’t desert the tournament if they are aware that the small teams are taking part, like they have done for the current tournament so far? Perceptibly, this seems like another haywire option. And world cricket doesn’t need it at this moment as the T20 format though highly popular is still only in its nascent stage.
To put things in perspective, the only way forward to help teams of associate nations develop is to have them playing against international teams more often and not just against one another. Of course, it is a fact that such games too wouldn’t be crowd pullers, but it wouldn’t at least mar a major tournament like the World Cup. Also, the stronger teams to should look up to it as a moral responsibility to help the struggling cricketing nations. After all, there was a stage when even they were on the learning curve and have come up the hard way. Sri Lanka is the best example that can always be cited in this regard. As often as it is reiterated it was nothing short of a sensational achievement that a mere 14 years after the island nation was declared a Test nation, they won the World Cup. That is some progress for you. True, in today’s times of T20s, IPLs and Champions Leagues, etc, it will be difficult for the future tour programme (FTP) to accommodate a series between say Australia and Canada. However, for the sake of the sport, somewhere a compromise formula needs to be worked out.
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