ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
ICC meeting in May to decide new World Cup format
March 4, 2011
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The ICC will meet in May to draft out the structure of the World Cup from 2015 and beyond, incorporating an ODI league and a clause regarding promotion and relegation into the tournament that could radically alter the course, not merely of the ICC's flagship event, but the 50-over format of the game itself. The decision to trim the World Cup down to ten teams has been vehemently criticised, particularly by cricket's smaller nations, but the new structure will ensure they get some level of participation.
The ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat told ESPNcricinfo that the ICC Board had to finalise its last piece of a global ODI league format and arrive at a cut-off for eligibility for the 10 teams due to take part in the 2015 World Cup. The purpose of this "cut-off" is to make both the new league, which will begin after the World Cup, and the ICC's ODI rankings meaningful. The ICC must decide how many teams at the bottom of the top ten ODI rankings will compete in a World Cup qualifying competition with the Associates to enter the World Cup.
Lorgat said the ICC's board would decide what that cut-off should be. "Somewhere we have to make the cut-off. Who knows what that would be yet - eight or nine or seven. The cut-off means that teams ranked higher than the cut-off directly get into the World Cup. Whoever is left out, goes into a qualifier."
Using the current ODI rankings to give a hypothetical example, should the cut-off for the next World Cup be fixed at seven, it would mean that Bangladesh and West Indies would not be guaranteed an automatic place in the next World Cup, but must play a qualifier with Ireland, Zimbabwe, Netherlands, Canada and Kenya to determine which three complete the ten-team field. Lorgat said, "That's where the Associates get the opportunity. They (the Associates) have obviously been disappointed (by the 10 team World Cup) because the more teams you make, the more teams can play (in a World Cup), but that's not top competition."
The first two weeks of this World Cup have produced a tie between two strong teams, an upset by the Irish over England and a scare given to Pakistan by Canada, and Lorgat said it had proved what the ICC had always said, "that there is nothing wrong with 50-over cricket." What the ICC must handle now, he said, were issues "of context, of the right contest, in other words competitive teams, and scheduling. Those are what we need to address rather than the risk of the game becoming redundant."
Despite the explosion of Twenty20 leagues after the 2007 World Cup, Lorgat said he did not think there had ever been a risk for the 50-over format. "We've always said three formats are viable, but what I was concerned about were self-fulfilling prophecies. We need to be careful we don't create self-fulfilling prophecies."
The ODI league will be held over a three-year cycle leading up to the World Cup in its fourth year, with the member nations playing each other at least once over that three-year period, either home or away. The 'home or away' clause gives an allowance to countries like India who continue to keep away from making commitments to host some nations, largely due to reasons of financial unprofitability.
India, in fact, is the only Full Member nation not to have hosted Bangladesh in a Test and the last time their 2011 World Cup co-hosts played an ODI in India was in 1998 as part of a triangular ODI series. Lorgat, however, said: "We can't ignore the fact that there are only 365 days of the year. There are some series that are bigger than others, we cannot forgo the fact that members determine bilaterally how much competition they have with each other." In the ODI league, he said, "India can choose to go and play Bangladesh in Bangladesh, if they happen to lose, that's the result, but that choice is up to the members."
Lorgat said the first few games of the World Cup - until Ireland's defeat of England - had vindicated the ICC's decision to have a ten-team tournament in 2015. He said while he understood the frustration of the Associates, the World Cup had to address a balance between competitive games and extending opportunities across cricket. "You are always going to get a diverse view in terms of what is opportunity and what is competition, because you can't have both. If you provide opportunity, you're going to get some teams who are less competitive, because you have grown the field."
The Associates, he believed, would have a better chance to succeed in the 16-team World Twenty20 because it was a format that "lent itself to competition. There is a bit more spice in that." Fifty-over cricket, he said, made it "difficult" for weaker teams who were trying to grow and yet find a way to "compete on overy occasion." In the 50-over format, Associates, he said, "might pull a blinder once or twice but over a sustained period of time, over a length of a competition, it is unlikely they will compete as strongly as the main teams."
The proposals being discussed by the ICC are part of a "strategic restructure" that has taken place over the last 12-18 months. The World Cup "cut-off'" decision began in the ICC's working committee and is at the moment with the "governance group" because of the impact it could have on the Full Member nations. Cutting off the bottom three from a direct entry into the World Cup may well be strongly resisted from countries like Bangladesh or West Indies, one emerging and the other struggling, who may consider it a means of reducing their global significance and ensuring that stronger, richer nations can only tighten their clique.
One thing, though, is clear. Cricket's World Cup is never going to be the same again.
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