Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How to keep the World in the World Cup

Welcome to my first cricket post. As you may have heard the Cricket World Cup just wrapped up in India. India won an exciting final over Sri Lanka, however for me what the ICC announced recently has overshadowed what was a great tournament. They announced that the 2015 Cricket World Cup in Australia & New Zealand would only include full ICC members. In case you don't know what that means, it means that the next World Cup will only feature 10 teams instead of the 14 that competed in India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. It is also not the top 10 teams, it is only the 10 that are full ICC members. So at the moment the only sides that are going to be competing down under are: Australia, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, England, South Africa, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, the West Indies, and Sri Lanka. It is my understanding that this change was brought about due to some of the Cricket Boards complaining to the ICC about how long the World Cup took to play, and that they had to play "minnows". Funny thing though, Ireland, one of the so called "minnows", beat England in the World Cup. Not only that, Ireland are actually ranked higher than Zimbabwe, but will not be allowed to compete as they are not a full ICC member.

Let us take a minute to examine why this is a ridiculous decision from the ICC.
1. Cricket is growing around the globe. Stopping all new countries from competing at the World Cup will have a huge impact on the growth of the sport in new areas.
2. It will kill some teams. Ireland have already raised this issue with the ICC: sponsors are likely to leave and with no sponsors and no prospect of attracting new ones of the same level it could kill the Irish Cricket Board; no doubt Canada are in a similar place.
3. Players will leave. The World Cup is a big draw for cricketers, and with no World Cup prospects some players may opt to switch countries. England's side that lost to Ireland featured an Irish player from the last World Cup, along with a few South Africans.
4. It turns new fans off cricket all together. There is nothing like gross injustice to take the joy out of a sport. I am a big cricket fan, but I am having a hard time getting up for the IPL because I am so angry with the ICC. I can see a lot of fans that were gained in the last months just walking away.
5. It will cost them money. With fewer countries involved there will be fewer countries wanting advertising and wanting to buy the TV rights. Plus, by cutting the number of matches nearly in half they are going to reduce their ticket revenue.

So there are five things that likely didn't cross the ICC's mind when they made their ridiculous decision. But let's return to why they made it: the World Cup at 43 days took too long and there were too many matches against "minnows". You had 14 teams divided into two groups and playing a round robin. That takes time - why not ADD two more teams and then have 4 groups of 4? With two groups of 7 there were 42 group matches. With two groups of 5 there are 20. With 4 groups of 4 there are 24. So by adding two more teams to the World Cup instead of dropping four, the net gain in matches played is four. I think that is certainly manageable and the tournament would increase cricket's popularity rather than detract from it.

I think the ICC has been a little too hasty in their re-organisation of the World Cup. Hopefully they re-examine their options with pressure from Ireland, Canada, and other nations. The way to continue cricket's growth in the world is not by closing doors, but by opening them.

1 comment:

southgate1 said...

I agree the decision is rediculous and will hopefully be overturned for the reasons you outlined. To play devils advocate for a second though, the lost of income will likely matter little to ICC who gain the majority of it from India, England and to a lesser extent Australia. I did read this was just for the 2015 World Cup at this point which could be because Australian have a long history of only watching Australia play and could be worries of low attendences. I would have thought enough ex-pats to get decent crowds though. Like I said, hopefully common sense will rein and the decision reversed