World T20 2014 April 7, 2014

World T20, two-tiered success

Brevity and levity are at the heart of the World T20's success and, although the men were now in action for three weeks rather than two, there was no sense of bloating. If anything, the two distinct stages lent a freshness to one another.

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Crowe: T20 is the Associates' format

Cricket has long had its format wars but the transition to a new-model World T20 seems to have been a peaceful one. Inviting a few more Associates to sit at the table - even if they were only given stools to begin with - was a rousing success, with memorable wins against Full-Member opposition for Netherlands, Hong Kong and Ireland.

The first round was an up-tempo tightrope walk for Bangladesh, the hosts, and Zimbabwe. The latter were sent tumbling out, pushed off balance by Ireland and then downed by a trapeze act from Netherlands. Bangladesh seemed to have converted a sense of umbrage at effectively having to qualify for their own tournament into a storm-the-beaches show of force, winning their opening two games comfortably; then came the night when it all went wrong against Hong Kong in Chittagong.

Victory for Hong Kong, the last of the 16 teams to qualify for the World T20, against a Test-playing nation - albeit one of the weakest - ought to be remembered as one of the great upsets. It sent Bangladesh into a tailspin, though it should have also provided a reality check. They were once the side that noisily celebrated the overthrow of established powers but the competition below them appears to be growing.

There was little "Joy Bangla" thereafter, as qualification brought a series of heavy defeats for the national team. The locals in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet were able to enjoy the rest of the tournament, however, as the main group stages played out a series of close-fought, entertaining matches.

In the women's event up in Sylhet, crowds thronged to the picturesque ground set in a tea garden. England and Australia, the two eventual finalists, both lost their opening games, while South Africa reached the last four for the first time with a dramatic win in their final group match against New Zealand. Bangladesh, making their debut, pulled off a memorable win over Sri Lanka to further endorse the competition's expansion.

The men's Super 10 featured one intensely competitive group - the one with the Associate involved. After their record-breaking, genre-expanding win over Ireland to steal into the second round, Netherlands were bowled out for 39 by Sri Lanka and then should have beaten South Africa. A coolly taken victory over England in their final match provided catharsis. The Netherlands story was another vibrant thread weaved into the tournament's tapestry, while at the same time helped highlight how precarious life can be for cricket's second-tier citizens.

Brevity and levity are at the heart of the World T20's success and, although the men were now in action for three weeks rather than two, there was no sense of bloating. If anything, the two distinct stages lent a freshness to one another. Nepal's delight was unbounded by their two wins, even though they didn't progress. Afghanistan's chagrin at failing to make a bigger mark was equally notable. The quality level then rose as the bigger boys took their ball back.

The ICC reported a resounding success on attendance figures, as the Bangladeshi people lived up to their cricket-mad reputation. All games were sold out, though whether quite that many made it through the turnstiles was harder to calculate. One problem with the format of playing the women's semi-finals and finals before the men's was highlighted by how few spectators bothered to come for the early game. Increasingly, it seems, women's T20 deserves to be sold as a proposition in its own right - an idea that will be tested with a first standalone tournament in 2018.

Such is the nature of life at the ICC that it cannot be sure of retaining the 16-team men's format in two years' time. However, it seems certain that if T20 is to be cricket's growth vehicle, it needs to have as many countries on board as it possibly can. Playing at global tournaments is the best way for the smaller teams to adjust and improve, be it to the increased media attention, the extra security or the pressure of competition at the highest level.

Playing at global tournaments is the best way for the smaller teams to adjust and improve, be it to the increased media attention, the extra security or the pressure of competition at the highest level

Charlie Burke, Hong Kong's coach, emphasised how important such experience was. "The one big thing that I say to the players is you've got to soak everything up," he said during the first round. "It's not every day you get to play in a World T20 and play on such a big stage in front of cameras."

Of course, the most daring thing the ICC could do would be to introduce an even more meritocratic structure: four groups of four, with the top two progressing to the quarter-finals, from which point the competition would be a straight knockout. Theoretically, the eight grandees would all go through but the level of jeopardy would be increased. There would be mismatches but there would also be the very real chance of thrillingly unexpected reversals. The whole thing would still only take about three weeks.

Sadly, TV rights being what they are, too much rides on certain teams being involved in a guaranteed number of matches, rendering such a bold move unlikely. The current set-up may be the best we can wish for but, if the 2014 World T20 taught us anything, it is that we should never stop daring to dream.

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dean on April 10, 2014, 11:27 GMT

    @Jaseem Amer, I don't think you can have a continental cup on other continents like we see in Asia, due to the lack of depth across the other continents. Potentially a 2nd tier event could be played in europe where Eng Lions or a devoplment team could represent Eng against Hol/Ire/Sco. If it did happen it would have to be T20 as i'm not sure Sco or Hol would that competitive over 50 overs. Something similar could happen in Africa using a SAF a team but the worry would be how competive the other 3 sides would be even against SAF A, particularly given where Zim & Ken are presently. Re the other continents I just don't think the likes of PNG, Can or Us could mix it with even the a teams of WI, NZL or Aus. As for increasing the Asia cup, I think they tried that a few years ago & the smaller teams didn't do well so they left them out. If they were prepared to change the cup to T20 then it could well work, however I think they should stop short of having an asia cup in both formats!

  • Jaseem on April 10, 2014, 5:12 GMT

    @Mooses, I agree..they are not going to listen to us. But if a team in top 8 cannot come atleast second in a group of 5 in bottom 10, they deserve to be out. Do you think this format would work in ODI's too?? And what about continental cups like Asia cups atleast once in 4 years??(@christopherTalbot),Euro Cup(England,Ireland,Netherlands,Scotland), African cup(SA,Zimbabwe,Kenya,Namibia),Australia Cup(Australia,NZ,PNG,??),American Cup(WI,Canada,who else is there??),Asia Cup can include like 6 to 8 teams.

  • Jordan on April 10, 2014, 3:35 GMT

    what about three groups of four teams? Slight increase in teams playing but not as many onesided games.

    i.e (Aus, Eng, SRI, Ire), (SA, Ind, Zim, Bang) and (NZ, Pak, WI, Ned)

    Winner of each pool goes through to Semis automatically. Next 2 best teams on points/NRR play off for last semi final spot. Becuase only one team from each pool is guarenteed to go through, ever game is crucial. 22 games all up

  • Dummy4 on April 10, 2014, 2:03 GMT

    All the participating teams should play in the main tournament after they compete in qualifying round and then 10 teams in the super 10's should team should be autoqualifying and that will be good for cricket........ If such things happen, may be Ireland or Netherland will qualify and England can be opted out......... automatic selection is not what all the nations want except a few nations.

  • Michael on April 9, 2014, 23:38 GMT

    @JaseemAmeer, I was thinking exactly that just before I read your comment! Just taking the top 6 through to the second round would give the associates even more exposure to high class cricket, which could only be good for the game. Of course, it may not be so good for the big three, so it had no chance to get up. Imagine if England had to get through this time. On form, they may not have one a first stage match!

  • Afsar on April 9, 2014, 19:53 GMT

    4 groups of 4 teams is rubbish, one bad game for any team mean out of the tournament. Continue the same format but allow 2 countries from each group from tier 2. So Nepal/ Afghanistan/ Ireland /Zimbambwe will get their chance to play with top 8 and any upset will change the final 4 teams and that will excite the tournament.

  • Dummy4 on April 9, 2014, 12:18 GMT

    4 groups of 4 teams each will not work. It will add to minnow vs Big matches and nothing else. And we will have 4 virtual quarter finals. So progression to next stage will depend upon just that one big match...

    This format has worked well with only quality minnows gaining entry to main draws on base of merit. This format must stay there for quite a while. Don't mess with rules. See how football and tennis have same universal rules that are working and have made their game more homogenized

  • Dummy4 on April 9, 2014, 11:45 GMT

    It is also time to reward batsmen for their big hits. Not only we should have 4's and 6's but we should have 8's 10's and 12's. When a batsman hits the ball 90 - 99.9 metres, he should be awarded 8 runs. over 100metres... 10 runs and clean out of the ground ...12 runs.Batsmen should be punished for running in the line between wickets. First offence should not only have a warning but also a penalty of 6 runs. For the second offence there should be a penalty of 10 runs and the batsman be given out.Bowlers should be penalized for the delivery above the waist. First offence should not only be a no-ball but should also have a penalty of 6 runs. For the second offence , a no- ball and a penalty of 8 runs and for the third offence , a no-ball, a penalty of 10 runs and the bowler not allowed to bowl again.These innovations will make t20 cricket much more exciting.

  • Dummy4 on April 9, 2014, 11:31 GMT

    The beauty of the current World T20 format was that only two matches in the Super 10 were meaningless the rest had impact on Semi Final lineups and two mactches ended up to be virtual quarter finals

  • Jaseem on April 9, 2014, 10:33 GMT

    Actually, 2 groups of 4 each and super 10 stage did work, as it was something in line with the format of champions trophy, for both stages. Test teams got enough matches against each other without the threat of getting knocked out immediately. Same in the case of stage 1 too. This format also ensured the top 8 remained in the main draw. But what was missing was, the opportunity for the associates to play against stronger test nations. ICC could try to put 2 more teams from top 8 to stage 1, and give 4 teams promotion to super 10. Having 5 teams in stage 1 group, also increases the probability for 2 of the top 8, in stage 1, to qualify and associates a chance to test them better. Only problem, 8 matches/4 days extra. 4 groups of 4 teams, gives lesser opportunity for test nations to play each other and threat of elimination looms large as happened in 2007 world cup. 4 of 4 is not good for cricket, atleast now.

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