World Cup 2007 March 25, 2007

Asian giants become minnows

Some might say that the World Cup is better off without the bloated stars of India and Pakistan but it's a punishment for arrogance, decadence, and incompetence

Some might say that the World Cup is better off without the bloated stars of India and Pakistan. As a punishment for arrogance, decadence, and incompetence it is probably well deserved. But as arrogant, decadent, and incompetent as these two cricketing giants might be, their absence from the second part of this tournament does detract from it. Yes, there is a certain romance about Ireland's progress and something exhilarating about Bangladesh's youthful dash for the Super Eights. Yes, it is tremendous to see minnows walk with giants and giants fall to minnows. But the tournament has been stripped of perhaps twelve heavyweight encounters.

The players, of course, have only themselves to blame (along with their cricket boards and their coaching staff) although being wrong footed in one match looks a harsh methodology to condemn these two great cricketing nations to four years of waiting.

While the World Cup tries to recover from the murder of Bob Woolmer more than the departure of two former Asian powerhouses, the lesson for India and Pakistan is a simple one: "You have four years to prepare a team of professional sportsmen (and that also means athletes), selected by committees that implement a ruthless meritocracy, and supported by cricket boards that run the business and the administration rather than meddle with team affairs."

Of course, India and Pakistan will do none of these things. They will flatter to deceive and then recreate this shambles in the next World Cup. This tournament has reminded us that life is more valuable than sport but it has also clarified that arrogance, decadence, and incompetence are not a formula for success. Let's hope that the introspection this World Cup has induced will help India and Pakistan understand what professionalism is all about. If they have any lingering doubts they might spend the next few weeks watching how Australia, South Africa, and Sri Lanka expect equally high standards from the aged and the inexperienced.

This World Cup has ambushed Asia's giants but it has also shown them how far they have been left behind in international one-day cricket. It will take some serious structural and attitudinal reform to be properly competitive again.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here