When it comes to fairness, it’s hard to beat the format of the 2019 World Cup.
Each team plays each other once, the top four out of ten advance to the finals.
Not only is it fair, but there are no ‘easy groups’ or ‘groups of death’ to borrow a footballing term. All matches are meaningful, and all wins valuable, as they should be.
The ICC did a great job with this. The talk about reserve days because matches are lost to rain can be considered in the future, but by and large are unnecessary.
Bad weather will happen, and if you win your matches you will get through. Nobody is going to go through undeservingly.
You need to turn up and play when its your time. Looking for excuses because of the weather would only paper over the cracks that those teams didn’t turn up when it was their turn.
You can’t be having off days when others are having on days.
However there was one area they ICC got it totally wrong – the format of the finals.
The two semi-finals are first versus fourth and second versus third. The winners advance to the final.
With this format, there is almost no difference in coming first and fourth. The benefit of finishing first are simply if there is an unlikely tie, or if both the match and reserve day gets washed out, you will advance to the final.
This means that your advantage comes down to chance. The chance of it raining. There is no reward set in stone for the most consistent and best team over five and a half weeks of cricket.
You are simply treated the same as the fourth team, who may have lost four more matches than you, but if it rains you will be looked after.
The IPL uses a far better format. They also have a top four format but they have a one v two semi final and a three v four semi final. The winner of one v two goes into the final. The loser plays the winner of three v four.
If it rains you also look after the higher ranked team, but this system doesn’t only give rewards to the top teams in the event of rain.
It is a far better system. Although one and two are treated as equals in the first semi final, the best two teams are rewarded for their consistency. Quite frankly, as they should be.
For first and fourth to be treated the same, especially if it’s a warm sunny day, then the reward for playing excellent cricket over nine matches is far too minimal. The system does not reward the team that should be most rewarded.
The other problem is if the top four break away, as they threaten to do, there is not the need to finish in those top two places as there should be or would have been if the IPL system was used.
There is no doubt the top four sides will be trying to win and finish as high as they can, but the consequences for losing are not as bad as what it would have been if the IPL system was in place.
Why the ICC opted for an inferior system is anyone’s guess. It would have meant just one more game being played, and at the business end of the tournament no team will mind that. An extra game means more TV revenue and a fairer format would suit all fans.
However on this occasion the ICC dropped the ball. The format they went with is not the better of the two options available.