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The World Cup format diminishes the quest for the best

Cricket is not so big that its world championship cannot be fought out on a much more sensible base

Lynn McConnell
World cricket is not so big that its world championship cannot be fought out on a much more sensible base than has been exhibited at the tournament being played out in South Africa at the moment.
It is no coincidence that the executive director of the International Cricket Council's (ICC) World Cup, and the former boss of all matters South African cricket, Dr Ali Bacher, has championed the cause of the developing cricket nations.
It has been an area where he has been actively involved since South Africa's return to international cricket in 1991/92.
With Bangladesh having been included in the Test fraternity, and struggling at that, it has to be wondered if 14 countries warrant a place in the World Cup?
Cricket in the minors nations does have to be encouraged.
But should that be as whipping boys for the Test nations as occurred at this year's event?
Canada may well have beaten their first Test nation in Bangladesh, but the performance of the Bangladeshis over the rest of the tournament does put that achievement into context.
What best measures the Canadian impact on the tournament is their dismissal for 36 by Sri Lanka in their match.
Even the fact that John Davison scored the World Cup's fastest century off 67 balls against the West Indies has to be tempered by the realisation that Brian Lara and Wavell Hinds managed the first and second fastest 50s in Cup history in the West Indian reply against Canada.
Davison was a transplanted Australian who, along with Ian Billcliff from New Zealand, inflated the worth of the Canadian side.
Namibia out for 45 against Australia, 84 against Pakistan and Kenya 104 against the West Indies, begs the question of just who is benefiting from these sides taking part in the event?
It could be argued that Kenya deserved the chance to play in the tournament, and possibly one other of the sides. But four of them?
The obvious format in a sport with so few Test playing nations was to play a straight round-robin involving all sides playing each other.
Cricket is still small enough to achieve that, and there seem to have been few arguments with the success of the 1992 World Cup jointly staged by New Zealand and Australia when that happened.
It would take longer to complete, 69 games as opposed to 54 in this World Cup, but if the organisers wanted to create an awareness around the world they could perhaps have teams play their first games in their own region, for example, Australia against New Zealand, South Africa against Zimbabwe, India against Sri Lanka, Pakistan against Bangladesh, the West Indies against Kenya, England against the Netherlands, or whatever the minnows might be.
Net run rates could still be a feature of the final qualifications but unless there were extremely amazing circumstances there should not be the six or seven teams affected by the final outcome to decide the semi-finalists.
Such a system would represent a more complete test of the championship-winning ability of the victor at the end.
What has happened in South Africa may see the pre-tournament favourite Australia come through and take the event, but what of the rest of the tournament?
It has hardly been a tournament notable for the number of exciting matches in every round. With fewer minnows there has to be a greater chance of a higher quality of play being seen.
In the meantime, the ICC would be well advised to force a much greater participation for the A teams of Test countries to play the minnows identified as being most worthy of greater support, in both one-day cricket and first-class match play.
If the ICC remains committed to developing minor countries' cricket, why not invite the best team from the ICC Trophy tournament to compete in the World Cup?
Then assist their preparation by giving them a reasonable programme to build up, and then when the World Cup tournament reaches its later stages, invite the next three minnows based on the ICC Trophy placings to hold a mini-tournament with the three lowest-placed teams at the World Cup with their own Plate final.
At the moment the ICC is trying to be all things to all people.
With such a scheme involving all the top countries playing each other, and the Plate final, the ICC would be some way toward achieving a more sustainable event on the world stage.