World Cup 2015 February 2, 2015

The perfect World Cup format?

Anil Joseph
With the present World Cup format under criticism for it's predictability, here are a few changes to make the knockouts more interesting for fans, sponsors and the teams themselves
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Adding an Eliminator into the existing format could solve a lot of problems © ICC

Over the last few weeks, several cricket commentators on ESPNcricinfo and elsewhere, including greats like Rahul Dravid, have questioned the merit of the existing World Cup format. But not many have been able to come up with an innovative schedule that meets the needs of all stakeholders.

The drawbacks associated with the current and previous formats are summarised below:

  • Existing format (also used in 1996 and 2011): The group stages has little meaning as anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of cricket could predict who the eight quarter-finalists will be, barring the unlikely upset. Then it is a straight shootout between the teams, who are fairly evenly matched.

This meant that there was not too much riding on whether you finish first or fourth in the group stage. This problem was best exemplified by South Africa, who brushed aside every opposition in the group stage in 1996, before they were beaten by West Indies in the quarter-finals. West Indies, who suffered three losses in the group stage, including a 73-run defeat to Kenya, stepped up to knock South Africa out through Lara's brilliance.

  • Super 6 format (used in 1999 and 2003): Probably the best format till date, but it suffered two major drawbacks: it was a long-winded and the non-qualification of a big team for the knockouts left sponsors unhappy.

  • Super 8 format (used in 2007): Endlessly long tournament, which put most enthusiasts to sleep.

  • 1992 format: Highly competitive format, where all nine teams played each other before the semis, but it had one major flaw - the Associates had no representation. Such a format would not favour the globalisation of cricket.

I would like to propose a format which will, through minor tweaking, ensure that all the flaws listed above are eradicated.

Group stages: No changes to existing format

Knockout stages:

  • Teams that finish third and fourth in Group A play an Eliminator each against teams that finish third and fourth in Group B with the winners progressing to the quarter-final.

  • The team that finishes second in each group directly progresses to the quarter-final, and plays the winner of the two eliminators.

  • The top team in each group gets a direct entry to the semi-finals, and plays the winner of the two quarter-finals.

This format has the following benefits:

  • There is a massive incentive to top the group since the team that finishes first earns a direct entry to the semis. With the second-placed one given a direct entry to the quarter-finals, every game in the group stage will be crucial. This will ultimately translate to increased interest from fans and broadcasters.

  • Failure to finish in the top two does not necessarily mean the end as the teams will still have a chance provided they do well in the Eliminator. This might help teams with substantial commercial interests remain part of the tournament.

  • It will also ensure that Associates like Ireland, through an upset or two, can make the quarter-finals.

  • Viewer fatigue can be avoided.

Hence, a format like this will be more meritocratic, where the importance of each game is preserved. Fans, sponsors and broadcasters will stay interested, while the Associates will be provided with enough opportunity.

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Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Anurag on February 21, 2015, 18:24 GMT

    Not convinced. However, appreciate that atleast someone somewhere is putting some serious thought. Neither good, nor bad.But seriously better than curret format.

  • ADARSH on February 9, 2015, 18:06 GMT

    Another example showing disadvantage of this format : Consider India and South Africa are tied at 16 points ( 4 wins and 1 lose) from 5 matches and are yet to face against each other. India beat minnows by huge margins, lost to Pakistan badly and their run rate is slightly higher to South Africa who managed equal number of wins but lost to Pakistan closely and could not thrash minnows like India managed. India V South Africa got abandoned due to rain. South Africa denied the chance to prove their worth against India and direct entry to semis due to this format. Entry to all important semi is dependant on rains and stuffs due to this.

    The only way to eradicate this problem is to squeeze the result from all the matches. Super over in case of tie. Reserve day for rain affected matches which is hard to employ on all group matches. If they did this along with bonus point,this format would be fine but i would provide another idea with a small change in this format.

  • ADARSH on February 9, 2015, 15:35 GMT

    The format is good with eliminator.But I dont prefer the first ranked teams in each group gains the direct semi entry. Lots of disadvantages are there. The first and second ranked teams must get the equal opportunity.This being a global tournament, i dont think its fair to give the first ranked team with direct semi-entry and the second rank team a quarter final. For eg :South Africa fetched 16 points from 6 matches (4 wins and 2 losses) and is placed at top now. India is currently second with 14 points from 5 matches(3 wins,1 tie and 1 loss) and the last match is against minnows UAE which got thrashed by all the teams and India is expected to win and gain the top position with 18 points. Unfortunately a rain comes and the match is dismissed gaining India just 2 points and no increase in their net runrate which is slighly lesser to South Africa. One lose of SouthAfrica was badly against India but this format gives an unfair advantage to SouthAfrica to enter semis.

  • Kashif on February 5, 2015, 19:59 GMT

    I suggest keeping the same format for the group matches but eliminate the quarter finals. Top two teams from each pool should play in the semi finals. This will ensure the top 4 teams will play semi finals instead of a possible elimination of a team like South Africa due to one bad game in quarter finals (as happened in 2011). Quarter finals makes sense when there are many teams such as 32 in football and only 8 teams (25%) make it to that level. When you only have 14 teams and 8 make the knockout stage (60%), that limits the importance of group matches. In the present format, the top 8 teams are likely to make the quarter-finals so there is no real incentive to play well in the group matches. I would also add bonus point system in the format. This will give the better teams an incentive to beat the minnows by heavy margins to gain an extra valuable point to finish in the top two in their group.

  • Venkat on February 5, 2015, 7:21 GMT

    The cricket world cup is the biggest , which needs to be competetive. Just for the sake of globalisation,there is no point in finding a way to accomodate the associates. The associates' presence will only add to the nimbers , make the tournament long and games involving the assosiates will not be competetive. 1992 format was the crispiest and the best , since it provides a cushion for a ggod team losing on their bad day . Further every team meets the other, which is really a level playing field.

  • Dummy4 on February 5, 2015, 7:08 GMT

    We can use the current icc rankings to good use. the top 4 teams directly qualify to the super eight(or six) stage which will be the second stage. the bottom 4 (or the remaining) play in the qualifiers with the associate teams.the best 4 (or 2) teams can move on to the next stage i.e. super eight (or six). then in the second stage will be the knockout quaterfinal followed by a semifinal and final. pros: 1)teams are duly awarded for their respectively positions in the rankings 2)associate teams have better chances in such a format, than the predictable group stage now.

  • SMA on February 4, 2015, 23:54 GMT

    Mr. Anil Joseph has suggested the best possible format. I find it better than all formats used so far. Let cricket pundits comment...

  • Arnie on February 4, 2015, 20:14 GMT

    As long as you have the following conflict, no solution will work: Cricket needs the associates to do well, so cricket can grow. Sponsors want the heavyweights to go through, so the audience is big. Brick wall.

  • Dummy4 on February 4, 2015, 19:17 GMT

    From every aspect 12 teams format of 1999 was the best. since 3 teams qualify from each group , its very difficult for a lesser side to qualify, it is even dimmer than existing format, where four teams qualify. Yes , two associate sides has to be dropped out which may considered to be a fall back for the globalization of the game but it decreasing a dozen games which are nothing but a waste of time and viewers have no interest in these games. I think the best cricketing event should not ruined on the name of globalization.

  • Arjun on February 4, 2015, 16:51 GMT

    My suggestion for a new World Cup format. 2 groups of 6 teams each (eg. same groups as 2015 WC except the bottom 2 teams UAE & Scotland). Each team plays the other teams in its group once, top 4 qualify for the Super 8's, eg. NZ Aus Eng SL from Pool A & SA Ind Pak WI from Pool B, each qualified team carries points & NRR against fellow qualifiers into the Super 8's. Then each team from Pool A plays against each team from Pool B forming an 8-team table with top 4 qualifying for the semis. This format will ensure no meaningless matches either in pool stage or Super 8's. Total no. of matches = 49 ( 30 pool games, 16 Super 8's, 2 semis & 1 final) same as 2011 & 2015. Though we know who the top 8 teams will be still all matches will be meaningful as points & NRR against fellow qualifiers are being carried forward.

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