World Cup review May 1, 2007

A farce, a fiasco, a debacle or a shambles?

Tim de Lisle looks back the World Cup and concludes that as an event, it committed the crime that sports administrators are apt to accuse players of: it brought the game into disrepute

The shambles at the end of the final typified what had gone on before © Getty Images

For us fans, cricket is such a consuming passion that the end of a major series or tournament usually brings a feeling of emptiness. Not this time. The end of the World Cup has come as a relief. As an event, it committed the crime that sports administrators are apt to accuse players of: it brought the game into disrepute.

A World Cup is a showcase, and at different times over the past seven weeks, international cricket has been shown looking stupid, grasping, callous and boring. Finally, in the darkness of Bridgetown on Saturday night, it looked ridiculous. The man in charge of running the show, the man picked out to referee the most prestigious match, didn't know the rules.

Recently, the ICC top brass made a move to get match referees re-named. The new job title they had in mind was "chief executive". On Saturday, Jeff Crowe didn't have a clue what was going on, listened to the wrong person, failed to apply common sense, and made a big mess of a simple decision. Yes, "chief executive" will do nicely.

The business with the bad light was a new kind of blooper, and we shouldn't make too much of it. It should prove to be a one-off, and it may even turn out to have done the game a perverse favour. It made sure that there was no last-minute redemption, no danger of the mishaps being wiped from the folk memory by the brilliance of Adam Gilchrist's hitting. It's tough on Gilchrist, but perhaps better for the game that the last taste in the mouth was a sour one. Something may even be done about it.

The ICC failed to learn from history, so they were doomed to repeat it

The more worrying blunders in this World Cup were the ones that had been committed before. Which, when you think about it, was most of them.

Remember the failings of the 2003 World Cup? It went on far too long. It had a surfeit of minnows. It had two group stages, with points carried over from one to the other, which made the second of them more complicated and less dramatic than it need have been. It was blighted by petty regulations caused by kowtowing to sponsors. It suffered from a lack of atmosphere at many of the games. It didn't feel as special as it should have, as all the major teams had gathered for the Champions Trophy five months earlier. And it was overshadowed by politics, because the South African government decided to stage some games in Zimbabwe, which, then as now, was being run as a vicious tyranny.

Malcolm Speed laps up the carnival atmosphere © Getty Images

This time, there was nothing like Zimbabwe, if you ignored the fact that they were again allowed to compete. Politics didn't overshadow the tournament. That role fell to the death of Bob Woolmer, for which, as far as we know, nobody but an unknown murderer can be blamed. But the rest of that catalogue of failings recurred. The ICC failed to learn from history, so they were doomed to repeat it.

They deserve credit for being prepared to hold the World Cup in the West Indies, which was a bold choice. But that boldness was not carried through. They were prepared to let the tournament be held in the Caribbean, but not - until they came under fire from the media - to let it have a strong Caribbean flavour. They imposed their own mentality: that of the fusspot, the control freak, the dead hand of the western corporate world. It was tantamount to colonialism, in an age that should know better. And it was wrong for sport, which is a different beast from business.

Like most World Cups, this one has been a watershed. It has marked the end of an era for most of the leading international coaches, some of the captains, and at least two great players - Glenn McGrath and Brian Lara. You could argue that it is now bigger as a watershed than it is as an event.

The game is losing many good people, and not losing some less good ones. The hope that they will consider their positions is probably a forlorn one. But they absolutely must rethink their approach.

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Tim de Lisle is a former editor of Wisden and now edits