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Opinion

ODI Super League: A master plan or just another boring qualification route?

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Roar Rookie
12th April, 2021
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The ODI World Cup had a change in format in 2019. It had ten teams, four less than the previous editions of 2011 and 2015.

It involved all the ten teams playing each other once, with the top four from the points table qualifying for the knockouts. That was very different from the division into two groups of seven teams each, followed by a quarter-final, semi final and then the final as it was in 2011 and 2015.

The 2023 World Cup will also have ten teams, but the qualification process is longer.

The 12 full members of ICC and the Netherlands (due to them winning an associate tournament which ran from 2015-2017) have been put in a 13-team table, where each team plays eight series of three ODIs each, four at home and four away from home.

India have already qualified for the WC by virtue of being the host nation and seven other teams from the table will directly qualify as well.

The remaining five teams, top three teams from the World Cup League 2, and the top two teams from the 2023 World Cup Qualifier Play-off will compete in another tournament in Zimbabwe to decide the final two teams and complete the ten teams in the 2023 Cricket World Cup.

This seems to be an extensive plan, no team (except India) can take anything for granted and countries which are considered minnows also get to compete with the top teams. Playing against the best will surely be of benefit to them.

Netherlands play games against England, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan. Ireland’s top competitors include England, New Zealand West Indies and South Africa. Zimbabwe play India and Pakistan while Afghanistan go head to head with Australia, India and Pakistan.

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The biggest criticism of the ten-team World Cup is teams like Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands and even Zimbabwe miss out on them.

These teams have, over the years, produced some of the biggest upsets not only in world events like the ODI and T20 WC but also in bilateral series (Ireland versus England 2020, Southampton; India versus Afghanistan 2018 Asia Cup; Scotland versus England 2018).

It is only fair that they get an equal chance to play with the top sides, prove their worth and qualify for the mega event while also getting a great learning experience.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact on everything worldwide and a lot of bilateral series had to be postponed due to it. Infact, Netherlands (who were supposed to host Pakistan and West Indies) is yet to even play their first game.

With that being said, the ODI Super League is a great initiative by the ICC. It adds value to bilateral series and gives smaller nations to play against the higher ranked sides.

Although the World Cup will still only be having ten teams, this should be a good exposure for smaller sides. So far we’ve already seen two “upsets”, Zimbabwe beating Pakistan in Pakistan and Ireland chasing 329 against England in England.

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But is the ODI Super League really the perfect solution, not quite and here’s why.

In the limited series we’ve seen in the past, teams send almost a second string side to play against smaller nations.

The bigger nations prefer to “rest” their star players and give a chance to the youngsters on such series, an example being India versus Zimbabwe in 2016.

As one would expect, the viewership would also be much less for such series.

All said and done, it all boils down to what team gets selected for the series. If the teams have the right intention and truly believe in making the game we all love global in the true sense, the Super League is the perfect platform to do it in.