March 27, 2007

World Cup

Less is more

Will Luke

Martin Williamson, Cricinfo's managing editor, looks at the performances of the Associates in the World Cup so far.

So the first stage of the World Cup is over, although the wholesale elimination of the so-called minnows, which the format was designed to ensure, has not happened. If you include Bangladesh with the Associates in the minnow category, they have bloodied two of the most important noses in the world game.

The appearance of Bangladesh in the second round is a real a success for the expansion of the game and a most welcome reward for their cricket-mad public. That it came at the expense of neighbours India was a bonus for them, even if it devastated the hoards of commercial men that increasingly dictate the running of the game. The other surprise package, Ireland, secured their own place by beating a shambolic Pakistan side; in fairness, their tie with Zimbabwe, while a great result for them and the tournament, was not a seismic shock, so far have the Zimbabweans fallen in recent years.

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Posted by sameer_truly_ bangladeshi on (March 27, 2007, 14:53 GMT)

I don’t agree with your concept of playing the team ranked 9th and 10th with minnows and let the best 4 compete in the tournament. If that was the case, we wouldn’t see Pakistan flying back home after their debacle loss to Ireland. The reason I mentioned Ireland because if you take the top four minnows then certainly Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Kenya and probably Canada will qualify. the fact of the matter is ODI cricket is very unpredictable game as we have seen since 1996 Kenya beating West Indies in 2003 both Zimbabwe and Kenya making it to super six knocking off teams in the first round like Pakistan, host team south Africa (can you believe that!!), England and west Indies and I don’t need to mention about upsets of this year. However I would agree with you that for associates should play for qualification to the world cup within 12 months of the world cup event. That will enable the qualifying teams to keep up the momentum and build some confidence. However for the globalization of cricket and making it truly the third biggest sports event in the world we have to give minnows a chance. Who knows, don’t be surprised if you see Bangladesh sneaking into the semifinal.

Posted by Jeroen Bal on (March 27, 2007, 14:44 GMT)

Most of the matches between the big guns and the minnows weren't interesting to watch, some were even embarassing. But it is the only way that the little countries can develop.

I live in Holland and I play cricket. Before the World Cup people either didn't know what cricket was, mistook it for crocquet or thought it was a game for a bunch of anglophiles who were to lazy to run (true in my case).

However, the Dutch media gave a lot of attention to the World Cup and I am positive that it will help getting kids interested in the sport. It will take a while, but I think it's worth it.

As for evereybody speaking highly of Ireland and sneer Scotland and Holland. The Irish (although they deserve to go through) just got lucky and the Scots and the Dutch didn't. For the last years these three countries are about the same strength. Ireland played Pakistan just at the right moment and Scotland and Holland got the best two countries of the world.

Posted by Biffer on (March 27, 2007, 14:26 GMT)

The comparison with Rugby is interesting, but not entirely accurate. In Rugby, there is very little chance of an upset (There hasn't been one at the World Cup, ever) whereas there is in cricket, as has been demonstrated over successive world cups. I think the ICC now has a more complete programme in place for the Associates than it did for Kenya when they had their superb run in 2003. It still needs more buy in from some of the leading nations though - has Australia made any commitment to play any of the Associates over the next two years? No. The full members need to be cajoled / bullied a bit more - having to play a compulsory two or three games against an associate each year would be a start. Or maybe the bottom five have to play three games against associates and the top five two - that would give 25 associate games a year to be split between 6 countries. Add in yearly competitions against each other - the World Cricket League every four years, the ICC Trophy every four years, European and other regional Leagues every two years, plus the odd Associate Tri-Series would give in the region of 8-10 ODIs a year for each of the teams against a mix of equivalent and superior opposition. Sounds like a way to develop to me.

Posted by Tausif on (March 27, 2007, 14:16 GMT)

Dear Mr. Williamson,

It was quite shocking to see that you placed Bangladesh in the same category with the so-called minnows and the associates. If you are not aware of it, I would like to remind you that Bangladesh has beaten many of the big teams in the recent past, and their performance over the past two years deserves more respect than you showed them. The win against India and the entry into the 2nd round was no surprise or upset. We were clearly the better team, and even before the match actually took place, Bangladesh confidently made a statement to the media that they were targeting India in order to progress to the second round.

We, as a cricketing nation have had enough. It is high time we are shown the respect we deserve. I hope you will be more careful about your comments in your future articles.

Thanks,

Tausif

Posted by Martin on (March 27, 2007, 13:41 GMT)

The 2 year gap between ICC Trophy and World Cup has been used to play ICC Intercontinental Cup and other tournament.

And the World Cup qualification has been expanded so that it doesn't start start with ICC Trophy, it increases the amount of games Associates get to play.

And thats the impotent part the Associate members gets to play more games, the only way they can improve.

Posted by Sailesh on (March 27, 2007, 13:18 GMT)

I do agree on certain points as you describe it. My view is that the minnows have caused some shake up to the cricketing fraternity especially after the defeat of major teams like India and Pakistan. Its upto ICC to look into the development much further. Just giving them a one off tournament before the world cup gives them no sheen to carry into the world cup. Its much prudent for the ICC to give them more international tours to good cricket playing coutries. It would get them well prepared. And afterall we do have fans who would take Leverock for a big hurrah!! This is in conjunction with Cricket getting more esteemed status overall the world.

Posted by Ramesh Thadani on (March 27, 2007, 13:12 GMT)

The world cup cricket should be for big boys. It is total waste of time for lovers of this game to see so many part-timers(minnows) playing and getting a lot of people upset. Yes, Ireland and Bangladesh have managed to win and send home big boys Pakistan and India home.But just think again how many times will these two teams win again if they were to play Pakistan and India again. I am sure India and Pakistan will be waiting for that day to come again to pay them so that they could teach them a lesson of their life-time as to how cricket should be played. I am looking forward to that day as I feel these part-timers should have a world cup of their own and stop messing around with the game played by big brothers and make a lot of people in this region unhappy and sad.

Posted by Chris on (March 27, 2007, 13:06 GMT)

What about tennis? It has unseeded players in tournaments and has done for years.

When else do these "minnows" get the chance to play against quality opposition? Those unseeded tennis players improve by playing against the top seeded palyers.

Personally, I think there should also be two divisons with relegation for the bottom team in division one, and promotion for the top team in division two. And it woudl happen each year, and Tests and ODIs would be treated differently. Thus a team could be playing Tests in division two and ODIs in division 1.

Posted by dugaton on (March 27, 2007, 12:53 GMT)

It seems to me there is some confusion (and this is not targeted at just this article specifically) about what the 'World Cup' actually is. Associate nations are pretty much the only factor that makes the so-called 'World Cup' vaguely different from the Champions Trophy or a myriad of other events the ICC regularly hosts. It may be wise to bear in mind that the opportunity for inclusion is pretty much the only thing that qualifies the World Cup as in any way special.

The tournament is bloated not by the presence of minnows, but because cricket simply does not have enough top-level nations to justify a so-called World Cup. There is no third tier to challenge the established elite in the group stages, Bangladesh perhaps apart, like Argentina, Italy, Samoa and Fiji in rugby. Thus, the tournament becomes incredibly top-heavy. People seem to want the World Cup without meaningless games, but presumably that doesn't mean the pointless fixtures that crop up in the last two weeks of the Super 8s when teams are aware whether they are bound for the semis or not. The fact that the semi-final and final will both be the second meetings of the teams doesn't seem to bother anyone.

I write as a cricket fan, but also as a baseball fanatic, and baseball can now claim more top-level countries producing talent than cricket can (USA, Canada, Japan, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, South Korea), and more lower level countries as well with pro-leagues (Sweden, Italy, Czech Republic, Australia, Holland). In the UK, we laugh at the so-called 'World Series'. Without the Associates, it would also be possible to laugh at the ICC's notion of a 'World Cup.

Posted by Rich B on (March 27, 2007, 12:48 GMT)

I disagree that 6 Associates is too many. On recent performances (World Cricket League) Ireland and Bermuda would have been the 2 to be left out if we'd have had the same format as in 2003, and look what Ireland have achieved in the West Indies thus far!

The ICC has realised that Associates cannot be simply picket off the shelf to appear at the World Cup. They need investment and serious time (2 years) to raise their playing levels.

Agreed, this has failed thus far with Bermuda, but looking at the increasingly competitive development programme I'm sure we'll have 6 Associate teams in 2011 who all deserve to be there.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Luke
Assistant editor Will opted against a lifetime of head-bangingly dull administration in the NHS, where he had served for two years. In 2005 came a break at Cricinfo where he slotted right in as a ferociously enthusiastic tea drinker and maker, with a penchant for using "frankly" and "marvellous". He also runs The Corridor, a cricket blog where he can be found ranting and raving about all things - some even involving the sport. He is a great-great nephew of Sir Jack Newman, the former Wellingtonian bowler who took two wickets at 127 apiece for New Zealand.

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