January 27, 2008

World Cup

Associates fume at World Cup pruning

Martin Williamson

The Associates are up in arms over proposals to reduce their number from six to four at the 2011 World Cup.

The move comes as organisers try to make the tournament less prone to early upsets - the early eliminations of India and Pakistan in 2007 were financially crippling - as well as giving the bigger teams more matches in the early stages.

The favoured format for 2011 is in effect a reversion to the one used in South Africa in 2003 where in the first round there were two groups of seven teams, with the top three in each group progressing to the Super Sixes. It was heavily criticised at the time for being too long, but more matches mean more revenue and that is a priority for both the ICC and the tournament organisers.

The main flaw of the 2003 event was that the Super Sixes was rendered almost pointless because of the way points were carried forward from the first round, and it remains to be seen if that will be addressed. The length of the last two World Cups have also been attacked, but it is hard to see with a reversion to the 2003 format how much time can be trimmed from the eight-week event.

The reduction from 16 to 14 teams means the Associates will lose two of their slots as Full Members, including Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, are guaranteed participation. The move is believed to have come from India and Pakistan, and with guaranteed support from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, it is likely to happen.

Privately, the ICC is believed to be split. Some senior officials are keen to retain as many Associates as possible to keep the World Cup a global event, but its commercial arm is thought to back a reduction in participants.

Last week eight of the leading Associates wrote to Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, registering their deep concern with the proposals. "We would regard such a step as perverse and unwarranted," the letter said. "It would be wholly contrary to the best interests of cricket and to the spirit of the game and [its] globalisation."

Their argument is a reduction in the number of sides goes against the stated aim of expanding the game into new areas. However, Cricinfo has learnt that some leading Full Members question the value of that policy and would prefer an acceptance that cricket will never really expand outside its traditional homelands.

Those advocating the reduction say the Associates rarely shine at World Cups and that there is no strength in depth. While Ireland qualified for the Super Eights in 2007, the performance of other sides such as Bermuda and Canada was poor. And Kenya's progression to the semi-finals in 2003 was as much due to boycotts and a skewed format than anything else. It would be better, so the argument goes, to have the best four Associates playing six games than six playing three, as was the case in 2007.

The majority of the Associates most likely to be affected are meeting in London this week to discuss how they can tackle the proposals. The reality, however, is that they know only too well that if the major countries want to force the changes, there is little they can do about it.

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Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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Posted by Adam Sutler on (January 31, 2008, 15:40 GMT)

The world expansion of cricket is drowning beneath an avalanche of Indian and Pakistani inadequacies.

Posted by rishabh on (January 30, 2008, 7:44 GMT)

It's sad that number of Associates will be less next time. ICC can not do anything about it because of BCCI whose new meaning is seeming to be- Board for control of cricket in ICC

Posted by Daniel on (January 30, 2008, 3:55 GMT)

Um David, have you considered that a tie usually means an equal run rate?

Posted by nahaz on (January 30, 2008, 1:49 GMT)

I think four countries is the way to go...there's not enough quality teams for six to participate. Maybe they should try to make the qualification very thorough and have it in the 18 months b4 the WC so that only the best teams of the time get to go. Minnows do make WC very exciting tho. While as a Bangladeshi I was disheartened to lose to Ireland it would prob help them spread the game there.maybe in the next WC we can have more teams. There's no point in always seeing the same teams fight it out.

Posted by Luke de Costa on (January 30, 2008, 0:59 GMT)

ummmm....What kind of sport actually discourages people from playing? This is madness. The mainstream media, former players turned commentators, the BCCI and the ICC need to have a good long hard look at themselves. Apart from anything else, it is completely and utterly immoral to discount certain nations from competing at a "World" event based on their financial marketability. Not even the International Olympic Committee would dare to sink so low.

Posted by Fahad Khan on (January 29, 2008, 20:14 GMT)

As a Pakistan fan, I didn't really mind Ireland beating Pakistan in 2007. Simply put Pakistan didn't deserve to win. The group stages could be expanded by one match, so that one bad match doesn't disqualify you. Associates playing in the World Cup is what makes it a "World Cup" but there are some teams I wouldn't want to see playing. Kenya and Ireland should play now due to past performances. Bermuda shouldn't but the game should be developed as it actually has a fan base in Bermuda as opposed to the US and Canadian teams which no one in the US/Canada knows/cares about. I don't think the number of associates is the problem, the scheduling is. A tournament should not go on forever, like 2007, and it is not necessary for every single team to have to play every other team. Because of the way cricket is developing in associate nations, it would be completely unfair to limit the number of teams to play. What would be the reward for up and coming teams? My two cents.

Posted by poor old bowler on (January 29, 2008, 11:33 GMT)

i think the main problem is the super eight part of the world cup not the group stage.

they need quater finals,semi finals and then final.

they should get the highest placed 8 into group stage,but instead of all these games have 1st vs 8th,2nd vs 7th,3rd vs 6th and 4th vs 5th and if you lose your out. the next next winner 1 vs winner 4 and winner 2 vs winner 3. its better way to decide a winner and would be more entertaining with a no stuff ups you lose your out fell to the finals.they would more passion and unpredictability added to the tourament and in some cases a underdog vs superpower theme in the finals which is good for sports veiwing.

i would like to see atleast 8 non test playing nations in the world cup because without them the world cup is just the champions trophey with a bigger trophey.

but the icc should handpick the nations they feel will one day play test cricket,whats the point of entering the world cup if you have no future ever playing test cricket.

Posted by john boon on (January 29, 2008, 10:53 GMT)

I think that people should remember that India and Pakistan didn't just have one bad day, they both lost two of their three games and deserved what they got, an early exit. Now remember, the team that knocked India out, effectively, was Bangladesh They are a fully fledged test member and were beaten by whom, Ireland, which is an associate team. hmmmmmmm. Who deserves their place at the top table more, a semi-professional team who put their heart and soul into the game for no financial reward or a team of multimillionaires who are fully professional?

Posted by Wayne Lewis on (January 29, 2008, 10:40 GMT)

Oh! Certainly this is NOT an attempt to protect the "BIG" teams from their lack of preparation for the World Cup .... I would have thought that after the Associates' performance in the Caribbean in 2007, that the ICC would have been rushing to increase the number of Associate teams.

It's the upset that makes the World Cup more interesting.

Posted by Llakhani on (January 29, 2008, 10:10 GMT)

I am an investor who has made a lot of money through sports (not betting) and I'd like to say this: whoever has posted comments related to this article (cricket lovers i imagine) - guys stop wasting your time,cricket's on its way to extinction. Mark my words,cricket will cease to exist in another decade or max two.

This statement comes to you from a person who had to give up cricket because of a serious back injury.I have been over the years through various channels trying to get different countries and communities get involved in cricket,but without support from the authorities,it doesn't matter how much money you put in. As long as people like Speed and Pawar are at the helm of affairs, the game doesn't have the chance to spread to markets like South America, Europe,etc.Look at the way rugby has developed itself which is the way to go.

I am based in Dubai where the headquarters of the ICC was shifted, since it has tax free zone,while the leadership here has no interest in the game whatsoever.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martin Williamson
Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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