An all-inclusive blueprint for the 2019 World Cup
Without hesitation, the highlight of this global event so far has been the performance and spirit of the champion minnows, those fighting for their lives, for their existence in future World Cups.
All this talk about ten teams for future World Cups is absolute bonkers. If we all, just for a minute, stopped and thought about what the cricket world really needs we would soon realise that by cutting back we are only going to further feather the bulging nest of the Big Three.
We must think bigger instead of smaller. We must plan a competition that truly expands the game, and keeps it prominent in people's minds for long periods. We must design a World Cup that takes cricket to a new level of exposure and support.
This is the time to use the rising confidence of the underdogs and force them into the spotlight for good. With T20 becoming the ideal format for domestic cricket globally, this is the age where the game can truly expand. After the Big Three takeover, we now are witnessing the balancing act of the cricketing gods.
My vision is to take the top 18 teams in the world and throw them into the biggest melting pot of all time - a proper world event every four years.
Firstly, a pre-Cup tournament (as is already staged to confirm the participating teams for the main event), consisting of nations like Papua New Guinea, USA, Canada, Namibia, Bermuda, Nepal etc, with the top two advancing to a World Series League, after a series of round-robin league matches against each other.
Any number of nations can be used to co-host the main event, the World Series League, over a ten-week period. For 2019, it would be Great Britain, the Netherlands and other European Associates sharing the hosting rights.
Eighteen teams split into a World Series League; two separate conferences of nine teams based on alternate ranking, all playing each other (eight matches each) for a total of 72 matches over the first 36 days in League play. Two games to be played every day, with a maximum of four-day breaks for each team. Small stadiums/grounds in smaller cities/towns to be utilised, bigger stadiums for when high-ranking teams are competing against each other.
Example with rankings as of today:
Conference One: Australia (1), South Africa (3), New Zealand (5), Pakistan (7), Bangladesh (9), Ireland (11), UAE (13), Netherlands (15) plus one of the qualifiers from among the Associates.
Conference Two: India (2), Sri Lanka (4), England (6), West Indies (8), Zimbabwe (10), Afghanistan (12), Scotland (14), Kenya (16), plus one of the qualifiers from among the Associates.
After a short break, the World Cup finals section is played in England with the top eight carrying their points over and then each playing the four teams from the other conference, over the next two weeks, to decide the four semi-finalists.
One v four, two v three, will then play a best-of-three semi-finals over eight days (potentially six televised games). Followed by the World Cup Grand Final, a best of three, played over eight days on three main grounds, the second match being at Lord's.
Overall, it's a proper competition that lasts ten glorious weeks, enabling constant worldwide coverage, global expansion and a true format to find the world champion team.
To accommodate the fans better, the format must be 40-overs per team, 160 minutes to complete an innings. Thirty-minute interval. Games start at 1pm, or 4pm for day-night fixtures. One ball used. Two bowlers allowed to bowl up to ten overs each maximum. Field restrictions allow two outside the ring in the first ten overs, and five outside for the remainder of the innings.
The 40-over format is the same as the old 50 overs. Instead of scores climbing into the high 300s, the targets will go back to around 250-275, thus falling into line again with all the records and statistics created in the past. By changing the rules to improve the batting entertainment, the overall storytelling of the one-day game has been lost; the game has become too different, too much about batting dominance.
Overall, the fans will be able to appreciate the game in its entirety, as they can far more readily commit to a six-hour game than an eight-hour one. They can see a game that is simple to follow, is balanced for bat and ball, and provides a true contest, with closer matches encouraged.
Mostly the event will grow the game, allowing the lesser lights more exposure while ensuring a champion is found with no chance of luck playing too great a part. The 2019 World Cup winner will indeed have deserved the crown, more than any other World Cup winner in sport.
The timelines for the proposed competition were adjusted shortly after the article was published
Martin Crowe, one of the leading batsmen of the late '80s and early '90s, played 77 Tests for New Zealand