May 1, 2007

World Cup 2007

Awesome Australia but awful organising

Nishi Narayanan
Ricky Ponting and John Buchanan lead Australia's party, Australia v Sri Lanka, World Cup final, Barbados, April 28, 2007
 © AFP
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It was entirely appropriate that a sorry tournament should have a sorry end, though it must be said that the embarrassment in the final moments far exceeded anything that preceded it. That the magnificent Australians were reduced to pleading for some positive coverage for themselves was a reflection of the pathetic depths this tournament had slumped to. But even they knew it was futile: even their towering, majestic and wholesome performance could not rise above the shambles.

In a sense they contributed, though in an entirely different and positive way, to the hollowness of this World Cup. But it was hardly their fault they reached such heights that no team came within touching distance. They dominated the tournament like no team has ever done in the history of cricket, and had it not been for the disgraceful finish, they would even have been entitled to two victory celebrations. They were almost twice as good as their opponents.

Sri Lanka, their closest competitors in the one-day arena, kept apace with them for about 20 overs in their first-round match, and for a few overs today, Kumar Sangakkara, and to a lesser extent, Sanath Jayasuriya were able to match them with their skills. But over the whole length of the tournament, they were overwhelmingly awesome. It could have been hardly imaginable that they could better their performance of 2003, when they didn't lose a game. But they have, and in doing so, they have set new limits for execution of cricket skills.

The organisers have done exactly the same. It was thought nothing could get worse than the World Cup in South Africa, which felt interminable, tiresome and stifling. The ICC has succeeded in dragging the level even lower. They have brought the World Cup to the most joyous and spontaneous part of the cricket world and squeezed every ounce of enjoyment out of it. Since they measure success in terms of cash, it has been bragged that the tournament has broken records in cash receipts, but in all other ways, it has been an abysmal failure.

Such has been the level of alienation among the passionate fans here that many locals have come to view the ICC's organisation of the tournament as occupation of their land. Cricket lover after cricket lover has lamented the pricing and the fact that "they have taken the party, the culture out of our stands".

It can be argued the tournament has been conducted in an efficient manner. The grounds have been spruced up, the players have been looked after well, and from a media point of view the facilities have been excellent. But they have failed to grasp the priorities. Perfection has been achieved in the most trivial things. Not a can of Coke has entered the stadiums, fans have been asked to turn their garments carrying offending logos inside out or face eviction, but they failed to feel the pulse of the cricket fan, a far more significant "stakeholder" in cricket than the sponsors.

Herschelle Gibbs plundered a record six sixes off Dan van Bunge, Netherlands v South Africa, Group A, St Kitts, March 16, 2007
 © AFP
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Percy Sonn and Malcolm Speed, the top-level ICC officials, were booed at the presentation ceremony. The contrast couldn't have been sharper because the same crowd gave a thumping ovation to Garry Sobers and Everton Weekes moments later. When hosts are booed at their own party, you know how much it has soured. Administrators who feel no kinship for sport will never find affection from its supporters. Entirely fittingly, it was Sonn who presented the trophy to the winner, for it was his prerogative as the president of the ICC. Sobers is merely the greatest cricketer that ever lived.

Of course, the players were not blameless. Many teams played soulless, spiritless cricket. And it didn't help that India and Pakistan, two of the tournament's biggest draws, combusted before the party began. Ironically, Bangladesh and Ireland, the teams that provided the most exciting days in the first round, also doomed the Super Eights to a series of meaningless matches.

But they could hardly be faulted when teams worthier than them featured in equal mismatches. England were an embarrassment before South Africa, who capitulated even more abysmally before Australia. West Indies lost horribly to South Africa and New Zealand even more horribly to Sri Lanka. Matches went from bad to worse at such pace that in the end no expectations remained. It was a tournament in which journalists spent more time focusing on the poor performances than celebrating stirring ones.

Good moments were scarce. There was Tamin Iqbal's sensational charge against India, Boyd Rankin's energetic bowling against Pakistan, Herschelle Gibbs' six sixes, Muttiah Muralitharan's magical spell against India, Lasith Malinga's sensational four-in-four, AB de Villier's turbo-charged hitting on one leg against West Indies, Mahela Jayawardene's sublime hundred against New Zealand in the semi-final, and ultimately, Adam Gilchrist's demolition of Sri Lanka in the final. Too few for a tournament lasting 46 days. One thing that might emerge from this is a shorter event, but it may be for the wrong reasons. Sponsors and television channels can't afford to lose India early. So expect the format to be tweaked to ensure India's presence at the business end.

In the end, it will be a tournament that will be remembered for the bad, ugly and terrible. A horrible death, under-performances, resignations, sackings, and retirements kept us busy. The legacy of this vast and meaningless World Cup will be despair and emptiness. It couldn't have ended sooner.

Nishi Narayanan is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by SHAY LIVINGSTONE on (June 18, 2007, 12:36 GMT)

shame on you ICC as an organisation you should be ashamed!!!!!!!!! some of my experiences..... 1. for the opening game i was allocated a seat in sabina park that did not excist,i bringing this to the attention of many stewards who hadnt a clue what too do i finally met a an offical from ICC who said i could sit wherever i saw a free seat,bearing in mind i had paid $100 for the ticket 2 months in advance........ 2.I on the opening game of the ireland campaign i again had a ticket which didnt excist however i had a choice of 20,000 seats as the stadium was empty with overpriced tickets(again $100) on this occasion hundreds of children were locked out on a humain basis it would have been nice to let them in.... 3.PARANOIA..... even the makers of the toilet urinals had tape covering theirs (ie shanks) for fear they might capaitize for not been an offical sponsor.... (if i was an offical sponsor i would demand my money back for been accociated with a miss managed organisation) 4. possibily the most hidious inncident was i was asked to remove my national flag from my seat as its forbidden to have national flags on show during the world cup aghaaaaaaaaaaa i could go on and on........ on a plus note i would like to thank the people of jamaica for their hospitality (head up its not your fault the world cup was a disaster its the fault of the administrators) the fans tryed its best to create atmosphere....

Posted by Gagan on (June 14, 2007, 4:55 GMT)

The most boring World Cup in the history of the game. That's it.

Posted by Legend on (May 1, 2007, 12:39 GMT)

the biggest lot of pish I have ever seen, my family and I had booked annual leave from work, to watch matches in inticipation of a great tournament, in the end, I didn't watch a single game in its entirety,pathetic, rubbish, paranoia of sponsors, terrible leadership from ICC, terrible treatment of fans, stupid league format 3 games, where the super teams have cant have an off day before being knocked out, this was done purely to kick out the minnow teams, either give these teams their due or they don't play, Im sick of the regulation where formats are built to eliminate these small teams which benefits no-one. 1992 format everyone please each other, cant get fairer than that, and top 4 go through. The administrators totally killed the atmosphere and joy of the carribean people. The most sterile World Cricket Cup I have had the pleasure not to see.

Posted by Nick Suess on (May 1, 2007, 11:22 GMT)

Just like in every other walk of life, the money men have taken over totally, and all that matters to them is the bottom line. And so wallowing along in their wake we see a few folk who were mostly no better than average cricketers and have largely proven incompetent as administrators, and they strut self-importantly around saying "we are the ICC", taking their tone totally from that similarly named cabal of corrupt misanthropes, the IOC. The fact is that when their financial masters have said jump, they have merely said "how high?" and they are prepared to serve up misery for the enthusiastic fans in order to satisfy the whims of the sponsors. Do we now declare "enough is enough" or must we put up with more of the same in 4 years time, merely because they tell us that's the way it has to be? To get it so woefully wrong is surely a sign that a re-think is necessary. I'm just a cricket lover with a successful track record in running sporting events that turn out to be fun for competitors and spectators alike, and it actually ain't all that difficult if you make those your primary goals and never lose sight of them, rather than base everything around the principle of "how much loot can we fleece the punters for this time?" I know that I could do way better than this mob, but I don't expect the phone to be ringing.

The only good thing was that the manifestly outstanding team eventually won, so at least they didn't manage to serve up a travesty of a result, and better still that team was Australia! Also congratulations to Sri Lanka for at least coming close as worthy runners-up, and doing so in an entertaining and good-spirited manner.

Now it's back to the drawing board - or do I hope for way too much?

Posted by Andrew Bernard on (May 1, 2007, 11:07 GMT)

Disgraceful that there was not a minute's silence for Bob Woolmer before the start of the final. Even worse, there was no condolences for Woolmer's family during the presentation speeches. Finally, how can the ICC claim that the grounds have been upgraded to being "world class" when there were no light towers. That would have solved a problem.

Posted by A.Dey on (May 1, 2007, 9:40 GMT)

It was an awful programme. Just think of it. A big nation like India with it"s onesixth of the world population travelled all the way to the other side of the world to play just TWO games in almost one months stay and returned home dejected. They could have done that home or nearby their home and save millions of $ers and energy. A real farce indeed.

Posted by Sunish.P.S on (May 1, 2007, 9:23 GMT)

I think in all these confusions & mistakes created by the umpires in the final especially Aleem Dhar, people have ignored the dominance of Australians in this world cup. For such offence, umpires should be thrown out of the panel. Australians should be given apology for the same & ensure that justice is done. If it can happen to Darell Hair, why not Aleem Dhar who misguided the second & third umpire as well as the match referee.

Posted by ks on (May 1, 2007, 9:19 GMT)

As a sri lankan supporter I thought our team was the only team who could even get close to Aussies. I also thought it was going to be a very close match with all possibilities. As fans we all feel that horrible emptiness of not being able to witness a proper/fair match and having that feeling of 'what if' situation. I have to admit Aussies deserve to be the champions and maybe 'act of nature' did the justice.

Posted by Shyam Lennon on (May 1, 2007, 9:04 GMT)

Was it legal for Gilchrist to bat with half a Squash ball hidden in his glove?

Posted by Sean Spiers on (May 1, 2007, 8:29 GMT)

I personally cant say to much about the games that didnt involve australia as the limit of australia's coverage was live games of australia on late night tv but of the games i managed to get a glimpse of the stands were often vacant... would it of hurt them to give the locals free seats to west indian games, the crowd was dominated by the opposition. imagine looking up to the stands to see only the rich and famous supporting you, none of there roots, no representations of where they came from because there standing outside $50 australian dollars short of seeing there team perform in round one of the tornament. the west indies are famous for there passion and vibrance, this was sadly stripped from what had the potential to be an amazing world cup. it is unfair to solely blame this on the administation, the underperformance of such teams as india and packistan shows that this will be remembered for some of the worst cricket played, some of the poorest management, and the overall dominance of australia at this point in time...

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nishi Narayanan
Staff writer Nishi studied journalism because she didn't want to study at all. As she spent most of the time at j-school stationed in front of the TV watching cricket her placement officer had no choice but to send out a desperate plea to the editor of ESPNcricinfo to hire her. Though some of the senior staff was suspicious at that a diploma in journalism was the worst thing that could happen to ESPNcricinfo and she did nothing to allay them, she continues to log in everyday and do her two bits for cricket.

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