An exciting one. For two reasons. There are at least six teams that have a realistic chance of even winning the tournament if everything goes their way. That is the first time six teams have a reasonable chance. Secondly, the playing conditions that we have for ODI cricket at the moment have led to a far more attacking game, certainly from a batting point of view. But also from a bowling and captaincy point of view, the days where bowlers and captains could rely on containment and trying to keep the batsmen quiet have gone. The only way that is possible now is to take wickets. And that has lead to far more attacking captaincy and an attacking style of bowling, taking wickets rather than preserving runs.
I don't think in this rights cycle. After the 2011 World Cup people were of the view that the structure worked well and there was no reason to change it in the short term and to give it another go: 14 teams, with two groups of seven, then the quarter-finals. The focus has been to make sure all matches are as competitive as possible. And, hence, the Associate Members that have qualified for this event we have spent a lot of time and a lot of money in putting together worthwhile preparation programmes for those teams to give them every chance of giving a good account of themselves at the World Cup.
The fact that the ICC Board has recently created the opportunity for any Associate Member country to progress through the World Cricket League ranks, get to the World Cricket Championships and then progress effectively into the ODI FTP and therefore qualify for the 2019 World Cup has allowed us to move to a ten-team event. The aim is to make the major events as competitive as possible. Every match should be very competitive and having ten teams at the 2019 World Cup will make sure that will be the case.
It would if we were precluding the Associate Members from qualifying or finding a route directly in to compete with the Full Members in bilateral cricket. But by creating that pathway it has enabled us to kill two birds with one stone. Firstly, it has expanded the opportunities for Associate Members to play at the highest level through bilateral series. Secondly, the World Cup itself, the premium event, without exception should be played between teams that are evenly matched and competitive.
It is a step-by-step process. The governance structure of the ICC is such that we have got Full Members and ODI members. The reason that they are Full Members is because they have a cricket economy as cricket-playing countries. There has been significant investment in those countries. So it makes sense to allow them to continue play each other bilaterally. Proper promotion and relegation [of Full Members] might be a step for the future, but at this stage it is too early to contemplate that.
We will do our best to facilitate those fixtures. Part of the strategy that we want to follow going forward is, 'Let us give the Associate Members the opportunity to help themselves.' It is not all about the ICC handing them everything on a plate. Yes, we will be in a position with the new funding model to allocate them a lot more money than they were previously getting from the ICC. But having got those funds it is for them to help themselves.
The Champions Trophy, the second major event in the ODI format, is much shorter, played over a two-to-three-week period. Effectively it is the top eight teams playing. What it does allow us to do is create more context for the rankings. It is easier to qualify for a ten-team tournament than an eight-team tournament, especially given the levels of performance of [some of] our current Full Members.
Yes, the Real-Time Snicko will be part of the technology used. We found it has proved [effective] in determining a faint edge off the bat.
There has been no formal change in policy from the BCCI in that regard. Anil Kumble, as chairman of the ICC Cricket Committee, is overseeing some research being undertaken into the accuracy of ball-tracking and other technologies used. Hopefully when those results are known, towards the middle of the year, they can be presented firstly to the Cricket Committee and later the Board. We will see where it takes us from there.
"The message is going out loud and clear that player misbehaviour is not acceptable. We have asked umpires and match referees to be stricter in imposing penalties on those players who do cross the line"
The lines are being drawn very firmly in the sand by the match officials. Actually the majority of players behave and acquit themselves very respectfully on the field. In particular, teams like New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka - the player behaviour is generally pretty good. Yes, there is the odd show of dissent, but who wouldn't be upset sometimes when given a bad decision?
Match referees have tried to consistently impose a monetary fine for verbal abuse or sledging. That for some players doesn't seem to work. They then repeat the offence very soon thereafter. But as soon as you commit a second or third offence the penalty soon increases. That is when it not only hurts the player, but it also hurts the team. That is generally when the team will come down on the player and tell him to pull himself together and start behaving otherwise it will affect the performances of the team. Yes, for the first offence, normally a fine is an option, but then don't forget hanging over his head is the possibility of a suspension. And in a World Cup, suspension for one or two games of a star player can have a critical impact.
It has been the considered in the past and no doubt will be considered again by our cricket committee. What it does do is provide the umpires with a quick and decisive way of taking action on the spur of the moment. But it is not football. The problem comes if the match officials neglect their responsibility to report behaviour that has overstepped the mark. And the umpires have shown in recent times, with the reporting of a number of players, that they are not going to do that and they are going to take action wherever appropriate. The referees need to support them in making sure that a meaningful sanction is applied. Again the match referees have been primed to do that and they will.
It came from the cricket department, simply in the interests of trying to be fair to this particular tournament. Player behaviour, illegal bowling actions and over rates are probably the three key playing issues that cricket has to deal with. There are three captains who would enter the World Cup with one strike to their name. [But] we felt that for the sake of the tournament, to be fair to everybody starting on an even keel, we will regard everyone as having no strike. However that one strike would still remain against the captain's name for resumption in the next bilateral series he plays.
As I said, the playing conditions have required that bowlers and captains have a much more attacking mindset. In other words, 'We have to get wickets. We have to get AB de Villiers out otherwise he is going to destroy us.' It is no good trying to contain him. And that is good for the game. Having said that, there is a growing view amongst cricket people that bats are making it too easy for batsmen to clear the boundary ropes.
It was a point of discussion [in the last meeting]. One of the most telling comments made was that despite all these runs being scored and the run rates going up in all forms of the game, including Test cricket, we still think a significant number of matches end in outright results. Which means there are still a number of wickets falling, it is just that runs per over has increased. I am not so sure that is bad for the game. If we are seeing more boundaries it is more exciting. If we are seeing more genuine sixes hit with good shots, that is more exciting and good for the game. If we are seeing more wickets being taken over the course of a 50-over match or a Test match that is also good for the game.
That will be one of the major points of discussions at the next Cricket Committee meeting in May, when we will review the playing conditions. It is quite difficult to have playing conditions that are ideally suited to wherever cricket is played in the world. And we have to have standard playing conditions otherwise it will lead to confusion.
Two balls were introduced for a combination of reasons. A white ball gets dirty and it always had to be replaced, and there were always arguments about when it was replaced. Having two new balls gets rid of that problem completely. On a good batting pitch, especially in the subcontinent, if you don't get wickets upfront the fast bowlers would not have much of a chance once the ball got old. Having two balls would at least address the balance for the fast bowlers to get some early wickets and therefore help contain things through the rest of the innings.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo