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June 30, 2010

Samir Chopra

Cricket and the World Cup

Samir Chopra

The sights and sounds of a World Cup football game are among the most enthralling in sport © Getty Images

I read Rahul Bhattacharya's "where is my love for cricket gone" piece with great interest. Like him, in recent times, I've experienced a rather dismaying loss of interest in the great game.

Last year, I could not be bothered to pay attention to the India-West Indies one-day internationals, and this year, I barely took note of the Asia Cup. Given the Asia Cup involved India playing Pakistan, I should have been more enthused, but the emotional roller-coaster that I associate with those encounters was missing. And it is not just with ODIs that I'm finding it hard to get excited about. The South Africa-West Indies series also failed to evoke serious interest on my part: I had subscribed for a broadband video package but spent most of this last Test thinking about, and watching football.

I mention football deliberately because La Copa Mundial brought me two things that I've been missing (rather desperately) in a lot of recent international cricket: a physical environment that places the game in an appropriately dramatic setting and a meaningfulness associated with each game. (I know a lot of folks aren't happy with the number of goals scored and the refereeing, but that for now, is besides the point).

The meaninglessness of so much international cricket that is played in a year has been commented on in too many fora and by too many writers to bear repeating here. There is much to be learned from football here, especially as regards the World Cup.

Ironically, even though the football World Cup has become bloated in recent years, its qualification process and structure still make a good case for a leaner, meaner cricket World Cup; one staged every two years, and featuring a qualification system that permits six countries to qualify (15 round-robin games, to eliminate two more teams, then semi-finals and finals). Qualification points would be earned over the intervening two years' ODIs. It would make individual ODIs more meaningful and hopefully lead to some standardisation of the annual ODI calendar.

I know this cuts against the grain of the "lets popularise cricket world wide by bringing in minnows" thesis but there are many other ways to do that without sinking cricket's premier tournament.

The question of an appropriate setting and stage for cricket is a little more tricky. The sights and sounds of a World Cup football game are among the most enthralling in sport. It would be too much to expect such an atmosphere at all Test matches or ODIs but cricket seems to specialise in providing the direct opposite.

For a few years now, watching a Test in the subcontinent or even the West Indies has been to watch a rather drab affair. The aura of an important international game is simply not to be detected. The stands are, more often than not, sparsely populated, the ground's physical infrastructure is substandard, and there is little spectator atmosphere to soak up or revel in. To tune into too many cricket games today is to be treated to the sight of an international sporting event taking place in a rather forlorn setting. While the game is supposed to provide sporting drama by itself, it is always aided by its placement. That, in modern cricket, too often seems to be lacking.

I'm still looking forward to the India-Sri Lanka Test series. As Rahul Dravid sagely pointed out a while ago, there is a challenge to be met here. But even acknowledging that fact will not bring about an abatement of the desire for packed and boisterous stadiums. I wouldn't even mind a few vuvuzelas being sent over from South Africa.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Posted by Sid on (July 4, 2010, 6:14 GMT)

Yes Imran I'm an Indian and I agree with you wholeheartedly that most Indians watch soccer only during FIFA WC and Euro Cup and have nothing to do with Indian Soccer or even Asian..But during the Fifa Cup they all behave like they know it all but in actuality they dont know a thing about soccer,they only watch because world cup is going on and all the hype surrounding it. I would rather prefer watching a T20 match between Essex and Sussex than a Soccer match between Argentina and Germany.

Posted by Critic on (July 3, 2010, 23:35 GMT)

I think it's an unfair comparison between cricket and soccer. Soccer World Cup is being played since 1900. And every team game has it own charm. Soccer has qualifiers as more than 190 nations have teams for it, and it is not humanely possible to conduct a World Cup with so many teams. Cricket relatively has much lesser teams, and hence a different format. You should remember mate necessity is the mother of invention. Whenever the need arose, even cricket has undergone a lot of change in the rules of the game, so it is more competitive. Use of technology has made cricket more competitive than ever. I think despite its longer time of existence football is yet to use any technology for its betterment. I wonder why something like UDRS is not being tried for football. Does it mean people should stop following football or for that matter runaway from cricket? So, it is an unfair and little ridiculous between two completely different kind of team games.

Posted by chris on (July 3, 2010, 17:03 GMT)

Modern day soccer is boring; players and spectators are childish or worse; referees don't know the laws, or if they do they don't enforce them; television commemtators are ecxruciating. Forget soccer. I am writing this with radio commentary of England v Australia LOI on, but only because there's nothing else on. Has there ever been a more meaningless series, let alone a match? England played Australia last year. They are going there again in the autumn. Australia are here to play Pakistan, not to play England. I love test cricket (and other first class). T20 is enjoyable. Is there any reason for 50 over matches. One comment says reducing overs leads to more exciting matches. Does it? The Gillette Cup/NW Trophy and the initial World Cup were far more exciting with 60 over matches. 50 and 40 over matches have been progressively more boring with the dice loaded in favour of batting. A bowling analysis of 8-8-0-0 has been described as perfect! I would think a lot more of 3-15.

Posted by S.Siddiqui on (July 3, 2010, 13:52 GMT)

Ipersonally feel that the ODI WC should have a round robin phase with the 4 going into the semi final. This keeps the interest in all games and tests each team agianst the other. The idea of groups in ODI WC where there are only 8 teams that can effectively lift the cup with a couple of minnows is incorrect. Its alright to have groups if you have16 or 32 teams. And we have the 1992 ODI WC, that seems now to have been the pinnacle of ODI cricket, or one of the high points. I think the only blight that had was the rain rule otherwise it tested every team against the other, and this I believe would make the ODI WC more eagerly awaited.

Posted by THE ULTIMATE EXPERT !!! on (July 3, 2010, 9:52 GMT)

Who the hell said that cricket is not popular in the world. For your kind information "CRICKET IS THE SECOND MOST POPULAR SPORT ON THE PLANET EARTH" according to the most trusted informational sites of the world including "WIKIPEDIA", number 1 is soccer.Moreover, ICC cricket world cup is the 3rd most watched sporting event in the world just after the fifa world cup and the olympics. So, get yourself educated dude.....

Posted by aftab on (July 3, 2010, 3:32 GMT)

I try to watch as much Cricket as possible and read about the rest. I sometime watch (only) the final of World Cup soccer. What should my column say? Perhaps soccer needs to have more elements in it just like Cricket for a person like me to like it.

Posted by Anneeq Anwar on (July 2, 2010, 23:56 GMT)

Iv always thought that the cricket calendar seems to have no structure to it. It just seems to be be randomly put together. Im sorry but having just the 6 countries in a w/c is the most ridiculous idea ever!! How on Earth is cricket going to increase in popularity if you're just going to have 6 countries? I think we should have a football style qualification process, that way the 'minnows' can get exposure to all the big nations regularly rather than on one off matches. We should get rid of useless tournaments like the Champions Trophy. The pinnacle of our sport should be the world cup, why try to distract us from that?

We have to accept that there are other sports in the world anyway, this is football's turn and theyr taking the limelight.

Posted by Anonymous on (July 2, 2010, 16:21 GMT)

A cursory glance at 2011CWC fixtures tells us that ICC needs a mind-boggling 42 matches between 14 teams playing at 13 venues in 3 countries to determine the QFs!! Elsewhere, the debate rages on about the future of ODIs, keeping the “experts” gainfully employed, and the audience “spell”bound. Finding themselves hard-pressed for time (given the success of the FTP) at the business end of the event, ICC come up with a masterstroke - a mere 6 more matches to decide on the two “lucky” finalists. QF mantra - just beat the minnows and gain match practice. Maybe R1: 16T (4G,4T,24M), R2: 8T (2G,4T,12M), R3: 4T (1G,4T,6M), Bo3 Finals and Bo3 3rd place deciders – total 48 matches would not have been a bad alternative idea. Points could be carried over to next rounds, giving an indication of how well a particular team has done throughout the tournament. At least the teams and fanatic supporters would get “bragging rights” for a couple of years. Anything for an exciting CWC and real world champion.

Posted by py on (July 2, 2010, 15:10 GMT)

Yes, I almost entirely agree! The 20 over game should be used to expand cricket around the world - with the 20-20 world cup expanded to 16-20 teams, and the 50 over game should be kept more rigorous, with only I would allow 10 teams qualifying in groups of 5, with the top 2 from each group going into the semifinals.

All friendly international matches should be abolished with immediate effect as an irrelevance. Each limited overs match should be scheduled 2 years in advance and count for qualification for the relevant world cup, and each test match series victory should accumulate points towards a 5 year test championship.

Posted by DERAJYDAC on (July 2, 2010, 9:51 GMT)

Unfortunately i too have found the football world cup more exciting in recent times, despite the fact i like cricket more. At times it's been a choice of watching australia v england ODI's or nations i do not support play soccer, mainly because the soccer matches do have meaning, whereas a random 5 match ODI series does not

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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