In one extremely short-sighted stroke, the ICC is attempting to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. The facts are fifty over cricket is a dying format but the World Cup also happens to be the premium trophy and biggest money spinner for ICC.
Changes are definitely needed to the World Cup format. The ICC needs to be creative and forward thinking. But in a shocking throwback to the past, the ICC has decided against having any associate nation at all for the 2015 world cup.
With the backing of the ten full members, the ICC decided to make it an exclusive invitational tournament rather than a world-cup. Imagine the tenth ranked (or higher!) team not taking part in a ten-team world cup just because it is not a full member.
Definitely, ICC has missed the forest for the trees.
The events that happened have confirmed that turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.
But rather than just criticising ICC, is it possible to have an alternative format that can keep everybody happy?
What does a new format need to do to satisfy everybody?
What is urgently needed is:
Here is the format I propose:
Three groups of five/six (Total 15/18 teams). Top nine teams are seeded, the other six/nine have to qualify not earlier than six months before the tournament.
ELIMINATION OF THE WEAKEST IN THE GROUP STAGE:
MINI-KNOCK-OUTS & SUPER LEAGUE:
The top three from each group qualify for a round of mini-knockouts. The top of each group clash against the runners-up of other groups to decide three teams which qualify directly to the next round of Super League.
The losers of the this round of knock-outs play against the third placed teams from each group to avoid getting eliminated.
The winning three make-up the bottom-half of the Super League. These three play against each other and eliminate the sixth placed team from taking any further part in the tournament.
The remaining two teams continue to play against the top three teams, who meanwhile had been playing against each other.
SEMIFINAL and FINAL:
The winner of the super league gets direct entry to final. The 2nd and 3rd placed teams of Super League will play the only semi-final to decide the other finalist.
Based on above, the total no. of Knock-out and Super League matches is 30. (Final-1, SF-1, SL-12, mini-KO-6)
The number of group matches will be 24 for 15 team cup (3 groups of 5 teams, 1 eliminated midway) or 36 for 18 team cup (3 groups of 6 teams, 1 eliminated midway). Total 44 for 15 team tournament, 56 for 18 team tournament
The schedule can be planned in such a way that out of each of the 3 groups, teams from same group play 2 matches every 3rd day. mini-KO is 1 per day. Super League matches are 2 per day.
That will result in
– half a week for SF and Final,
– One week for Super League
– One week for mini-KnockOuts
– Two weeks for five team group league and two and a half weeks for six team group league.
Effectively a six team 56 match cup can be completed in five weeks. Not bad.
The above tournament format was based on the following below principles.
1: Keep the qualifying tournament as close as possible to the world cup. This might have ensured that we had Afghanistan and another deserving team instead of Canada / Kenya.
2: Maintain the trend of increasing the number of teams. Dont cut down on the number of teams. Out of the 16 teams which took part in the 2007 world cup, Bermuda was the only team which looked like excess to the tournament
3: Do away with quarter finals. It introduces too much of a lottery to the results and hopefully SA wont lose to teams like NZ and WI
4: Keep the no. of teams in group stage at optimum. After 2007, four was not enough less, which didnt allow slow starters like India and unpredictable team like Pakistan to recover from a single loss. Also, avoid seven team groups, which was what happened in 2011.
Without England, the league stages of the just concluded world-cup could have been the biggest disaster ever.
5: Have more matches involving the top teams. At the same time, in any cricketing tournament, there are usually four teams which are a cut above the rest.
Make sure these teams play each other to make it really satisfying for true cricket lovers. Maybe a Super League of four to six teams?
6: If you are going to have a Super League :
– don’t have eight teams like in 2007. We dont want Ireland vs Bangladesh again
– dont carry over points from group stages. We dont want Kenya again in SF like in 2003
– avoid a semi final and think of having only finals. If this is too much of a bitter pill for TV, have only one semi-final. No more New Zealand getting thrashed in a semi like in most world-cups except 1992, when they were genuinely a contender for the crown.