Keep the minnows

Before the world cup I talked about how much I like that this is still cricket’s ultimate tournament, and I love that at the end of this we’ll know who is the best ODI team in world cricket.  Probably.

The other thing I love is the minnows.  And because of typical ICC stupidity, they’ll be going soon.

In 07 Van Bunge and Ireland were the stories.  In the 03 t my favourite memories are from John Davison’s batting, Kenya’s form and Aasif Karim’s bowling.  In 99 I loved Neil Johnson.  And anyone who has seen The Chuck Fleet-Smith’s will know how much I love Sultan Zarawani from 96.

In this tournament we’ve had minnow highlights coming thick and fast.

Collins Obuya’s 98* was heartbreaking.  What a story though, the man who was one to watch in 03 with his leggies, gets the yips with his leggies and re-brands himself as a dogged barely functioning batsmen who somehow finds 98 runs against Australia before running out of time for making a hundred.  Here is a man who has done whatever he came to perform for his country in this world cup.

Peter Borren is the most violent looking cricketer I’ve ever seen.  If Crank 4 needs a Dutch Kiwi Villain I could see him in a knife fight with Jason Statham.  Borren is the sort of barely functioning all rounder that minnows rely on.  His medium pace makes you want to face it, and when he bats he seems to try and cut every ball.  Throw in his captaincy, scary eyes and forehead, and you have a nugget of minnow gold that his team would be scared to miss field in front of.

Ryan Ten Doeschate smashed England around so bad that people thought he’d scared them straight.  The South African Essex man with the nickname about his cock has smashed a few balls before this world cup, and he even had a cameo in Stuart Broad’s comedy romp in the World T20, but to see him fully take down England for a few hours was as good a structured innings I’ve seen by a minnow batsmen since Neil Johnson’s hundred against Australia.  Plus it’s fun to call him Ryan Ten Inches.

Rizwan Cheema has barely scored this world cup, and yet, he’s built up a cult following by batting like an arsonist.  Before this world cup the only taste of The Cheema (as he should be called) was on youtube.  Now I’ve seen him open the batting, slog in the middle order, bowl his crafty rubbish medium pace and try and hit kiwi batsmen with beamers.  He’s like every club cricket slogger you’ve ever seen, but he does it once or twice to international bowlers before getting bowled with his eyes shut.

Nehemiah Odhiambo has taken five wickets in the world cup, and his econmy rate is far from Ray Pricean.  What he does have is a smile.  When he beats a batsman, he smiles so much that no matter how much Shane Warne or Mitchell Johnson whiten their teeth, they’ll never smile like he does.  He is impossible not to like, if he cheated on you with your girlfriend, you’d want to beat him up, but his smile and infectious attitude would make you take him out for a beer and ask him about his bowling action.

Then there is Kevin O’Brien.  I was under the opinion that O’Brien was a cult figure before this world cup.  He’s a chubby slogger with ginger hair, surely there is already an Indie band called the K’OB experience after a few of his hits in the 09 World T20.  Apparently not, and most people only seemed to notice this beast when he beat England on his own.  It was one of the best world cup innings in the entire history of the tournament, and it was done by a guy who was hyperventilating after 30 balls from a country that’s only been in a few tournaments.

Now, while I suspect I’m in the minority, even those who think that minnows are a waste of time would find it hard to argue that these guys have added to the tournament.

If the tournament is too long, shorten it, play two games a day during the early part of the tournament, don’t allow minnows to play from Friday to Sunday and it’s all good.

With 10 teams, we’re giving ourselves less chance for stories like Aasif Karim, Kevin O’Brien and Collins Obuya to come through.  I can’t see how that will improve the cricket world in any way, or make the world cup a more interesting tournament.  I’ve seen New Zealand play Pakistan a lot, I don’t see much Netherlands Vs West Indies.

And perhaps the most important thing to remember is that Sri Lanka went from minnows to winners in 13 years.

The cricket world needs a touch of minnow, and if looking at Balaji Rao’s bulge doesn’t convince you of that, nothing will.

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37 thoughts on “Keep the minnows

  1. fantasy bob says:

    Completely correct in every respect. No minnows – no world tournament – no widening of cricket – no development path. Fantasy Bob had a proposal for the ICC in the attached post.

    http://fantasybob.blogspot.com/2011/02/cricket-world-cup-talking-points.html

  2. Jrod, I doubt you are the one in the minority! I guess it’s the ICC in the minority… but they don’t seem to have the time to do something good for a change!

  3. Bobby Razzle says:

    Damn straight jrod. How many of us will it take to bust into the ICC office in dubai and give those gimps the kick in the nuts the so badly need….?

  4. Chris says:

    Neil McKenzie or Neil Johnson?

  5. Chris says:

    I only ask because we don’t want people rushing off to find highlights of McKenzie batting.

  6. Wes ~PFCNFS~ says:

    Shridhar is just one of the many Indians who actually speak pro minnows. In fact most of the people I know do. In fact in fact I have met only one (one) guy so far who wants them out. Many people have connections, relations or at least a weird affection to minnow countries. So, mathematically it’s an absolute riddle why only minnow haters sit in the driving seats.

    I am utterly glad to see you have fallen for The Borronator *the grin after*

  7. Deep Cower says:

    Yes, there have been sporadic brilliances, but it is unfair to pit the major teams against the minnows. Given the cricketing calendar is already packed, it makes no sense to tire out the players who are guaranteed to move on to the next round. Yes, there have been upsets, but if the Canadians or the Irish progress to the quarters, you have to concede it’ll only dilute the quality of the tournament. I like KOB too, but I want the World Cup to mean something.

    It seems to me that before the WC, the ICC can organize a mini tournament between all the minnows and use that to select two teams to participate in the WC. Inviting every one of them to the party is just a waste of booze.

    • jrod says:

      DC, How does it mean less with Minnows? A minnow team has gone from minnow to winner, Kenya made the semi finals as a minnow, and minnows have been playing since the first world cup (East Africa). I don’t remember people saying the soccer world cup meant less because New Zealand, Australia and North Korea played.

      Russ, We have to face facts that right now the cricket world can’t produce 20 teams good enough to represent the sport, your plan could make sense in the future. I disagree that they don’t shape the tournament, in 99 Zimbabwe made the quarter finals meaning a major team did not, in 07 Ireland meant that Pakistan was out of the tournament and in 03 Kenya definitely did by making the semi finals. That’s the last three world cups.

      Chris, you are right, that could have been horrible, great pick up.

  8. Russ says:

    JRod, you are right, in that these performance are all worth having at a tournament. But you missed something that I think matters more, and that Deep Cower touched on in a different way. As much as we enjoy seeing the minnows do well, rarely do their feats shape the tournament. Canada vs Kenya was depressing; Ireland vs Netherlands will be worse. A couple of empty shells, beaten almost continually for the past 5 weeks, playing for pride and nothing more.

    What the world cup needs, more than anything, is more games that matter – something a 10 team cup will completely fail to achieve. Watching minnows playing above themselves is great, but watching a couple of flawed teams overcome their weaknesses in a fight for the final knock-out spot would be 10 times better.

    It is easily achieved. A 20 team world cup where 1st in each group went through to the q/f and 2nd/3rd to a knockout would put 4 spots up for grabs. It would have the same number of games between the top-8 and the rest as this world cup (24), conclude the group stage in 20 days, have 11 knockout games with the tension they bring instead of 3, while almost certainly retaining the big teams for the latter stages (even England couldn’t come 4th in a 5 team group).

  9. Russ says:

    JRod, define “good enough to represent the sport” without completely undermining the entire argument you set forth in your post. There aren’t 20 teams capable of winning the world cup (there aren’t 8 teams that can do that; in the last world cup there weren’t 2). But the gaps between associates as you go down the rankings get smaller and smaller. The ICC qualifiers were very competitive and had teams ranked down to 22 (the worst team in that tournament is now ranked 26th). It is all about the line between success and failure at each stage. If you set it at 8th (as in a 16 team world cup) then the gap from 8th to 16th (or 14th) is big. If you set it at 12th then the gap between 12th and 20th is much smaller. If you set it at 4th then the gap between 4th and 10th is massive – why even play 10 teams in those circumstances?

    And yes, you may get a flogging between 1st and 20th. But the biggest flogging in this world cup was when the team ranked 9th beat 8th, so go figure. Competitiveness is entirely relative. As much as you want to reduce the number of mismatches, the gap between the strongest side in a competition and the weakest is fairly irrelevant if the worst side plays half their games against relatively equal opposition, and victories over that opposition are what determines their fate.

    Since you mentioned soccer, think about what actually occurred in Australia’s groups in 2006 and 2010. Beaten easily by the big names (Brazil and Germany), competitive against the rest (ranked between 12 and 30). Qualification to the knockouts depended on beating the lower ranked sides, not the best. They are pretty much a case-study for my argument.

    • jrod says:

      Russ, Well UAE and Namibia prove that the drop off can be sudden, I think 14 or 16 is the number of teams in the world that are good enough to put up a decent account of themselves right now, 20 might just be a step too far, although in four years time that could be different because as you say the associates are all roughly the same. Afghanistan in four years could easily be good enough to play in the world cup.

  10. raj says:

    If we count bangladesh as a minnow, and if we had the 2007 format, we might have already had a minnow in the Quarters!
    The 2011 World Cup format was alleged to have been prepared to protect India. Infact, it might have served to screw India. If India, England, Netherlands and Bangladesh were in a 2007 style group, England would already have been eliminated, Now, there is a chance that England might still go through and India gets eliminated….which they wouldnt have been if we had a 2007 style format.

    Talk about the best plans of man and mice LOL

  11. Is it possible to forward this piece to the ICC? :)

  12. Venkata Pendyala says:

    Minnows have a place in every big tournament. We love their game, their endeavour to succeed and then fail most of the time. Its fun to cheer for them. Atleast they promise you a clean good spirited game.
    The Minnows have the best captain in the tournament in William Porterfield.
    At least its good fun to watch Shastri contorting his face try and figure out what he is saying.

    We need the Final after a Final to be a Minnows XI vs the winner at Wankhede.
    That will be fun.

    Most Indians and Indian TV dont want them around; On the same yardstick we Indians should not be sending a ‘contingent’ to the Olympics and also cancel our field hockey team in a World Cup.

  13. greg burke says:

    Andrew Strauss as captain of The Minnows XI?

  14. Rus says:

    JRod, which Namibia or UAE are you talking about? The ones that played in the World Cup or the current sides? Because the Cricket Europe ratings put Namibia at 3rd of the associates. Like the test teams, the gap between Ireland in 1st and Namibia in 3rd is moderate, as is the gap between Canada in 7th and PNG in 8th, but after that there are 9 teams all much of a muchness. Afghanistan is an example of why you are better off with too many sides than too few. Qualification for a tournament is like qualification in a tournament: there is always has an element of luck. Canada came 2nd in 2009 but have gone backwards since. Afghanistan came 6th, but there was little to separate any of the teams in that competition.

    And what does “give a good account of themselves” even mean? Against whom? See what I said above, “competition is relative”. If you structure a tournament with 14 teams so two associates have to play 5 test teams, then they’ll struggle. If you have a 5 team group with 3 associates and 2 test teams then the relative strength of th competition is different. How is an argument based on the idea that there is a dividing line between “good” and “bad” at 14 teams different to arguing there is a dividing lines between good and bad at 5 teams?

  15. Deep Cower says:

    JRod, I did concede that there have been upsets, but upsets are more an exception than the norm. Yes, Kenya made it to the semis in 2002/03, but since then, if you pit Kenya against a top team, have they won consistently? Has the move to semis encouraged them enough to start competing? No and now. You sound like the same bunch of people who seem to defend Bangladesh’s test status.

    Everyone loves supporting under-dogs and our hearts warm to a pink haired man screwing the Brits. But that doesn’t mean I have to sit through two weeks of pointless games.

    If I am so bad at my job that I don’t show any signs of improvement over a period of years, I’ll be fired. No blogs will be written about me. Now, we shouldn’t “fire” the minnows, but help them develop their grass-roots cricket. And that doesn’t mean facing Steyn and Morkel. Sticking them in a world cup hoping the exposure would make them better players is a hopelessly romantic view.

    And the comparison to soccer doesn’t hold – cricketers have to endure way more travel and play days. No need for a few extra during an important tourney.

    • jrod says:

      DC, If upsets were the norm, they wouldn’t be upsets, would they? England haven’t made the semi finals of the World Cup since 92 as far as I’m aware. Should they be fired from the world cup? Should we only have a world cup of teams who are a realistic chance of winning or providing upsets, should the West Indies and New Zealand be sent home? It’s a world cup, so it needs to be more than the elite teams playing, because who is to say who is elite anyway? Sri Lanka weren’t through of as elite in 96. Other teams need to be able to play toward something, it’s a big deal to an associate player to make the world cup, so they should not be cast aside because the ICC can’t structure the tournament in a better way. You don’t have to sit through any games, no one is forced to do it, you can walk away, no one said you have to watch every game of a world cup. I don’t watch every game even between the major sides. I also don’t see how once in every four years Minnows can’t face the top line nations, if nothing else to see if they have improved, like Ireland have. There is a chance that Ireland or Zimbabwe won’t be in the next world cup, that is pathetic, as they should definitely be playing on the world stage. Cricket doesn’t have to play more days than football, it chooses too because of a bad TV rights deal.

      Rus, Namibia in 03 and UAE in 96, both those teams were just not good enough or professional enough to play in an elite tournament. As you keep saying, there are many associates at about the same level, so why have them all in, why not just pick a handful of the better sides. So then they should still be in a situation where they play off for a spot with teams of the same level. Being that very few countries have a professional cricket set up, I don’t see the benefit of 20 teams playing until 25 teams have a professional set up. I also think 16 is the perfect number for a small sport that is not taken seriously by the majority of the world. 20 seems like an arbitrary number to me, 16 seems right. There’s no rush.

  16. How about playing the two best Associate nations in each World Cup, in addition to the Test playing nations? This will give extra incentive to ‘minnows’ like Kenya and Canada to become more consistent, so as to compete with the tougher teams like Ireland and Netherlands for spots in the World Cup?

  17. “But that doesn’t mean I have to sit through two weeks of pointless games.”

    DC, how does one decide which one will be a pointless game? Before the World Cup started, most people must have marked the matches involving a Top Test team against an Associate team as a pointless match. Therefore, if you decide not to sit through these pointless matches, you would have missed Ireland beating England and almost causing an upset over Bangladesh and West Indies as well. You would have missed Ryan ten Doeschate scoring a 100 as fine as any and also missed Canadian bowlers getting Pakistan out below 200.

    Had Ireland not played in this World Cup, would we have been able to say that Ireland’s performance in 2007 was not just a flash in the pan and that there has been genuine progress! Had Kenya not played in 2007 and 2011, we would still have been under the impression that they have made good progress because of their 2003 performance and not seen the ground reality!

    ICC’s decision is a clear case of thinking: “We are incompetent fools and cannot bring about betterment in their cricket, so let us completely shun their cricket! Then no one will know what is happening there and no one will blame us for debacles like Kenya!”

    I don’t defend Bangladesh’s Test status… but I would definitely want to see them beat the top teams in Test cricket one day! I also want to see Ireland play Test cricket in the near future. A decade or so down the line, I want to see the Test pool expand to more countries than what we have today… and reducing a World Cup to 10 teams would be a step in the backward direction. The biggest reason why I want to see more Associate teams in ODI World Cup is simply because it has the potential to have a direct effect on the expansion of Test cricket!

  18. Phred says:

    How about the “minnows” getting more matches against quality opposition instead of once every four years? What a radical idea! And how about the ICC encouraging them, not keeping them down like Imperialized subjects (ouch!). That’s right, I said “Imperialized”.

    A World Cup should be a World Cup, not an elitist comp. We already have the (yawn) so-called “Champions Trophy” for that ..

    Having said that, I agree there should be a more intense “qualifying” tournament for the “minnows” so that the 2 best teams (or 4, or 8) can qualify for the WC.

    And … Test status for Ireland NOW!!

  19. Deep Cower says:

    Okay, that upsets part was a sentence construction failure, but you seem to have taken the “I should not sit through….” part too literally. My central point is that strong teams should not have to play the minnows in a major tourney. I see you take an issue with the definition of minnows. I am not naive enough to claim that only those teams that have made to the semis in any WC should qualify, I am merely saying that only teams that can compete *consistently* should be playing. One Kenyan semifinal qualification in one decade does not make them good enough for a major tournament. On the other hand, a team like West Indies can give us a good game more often than not. On bowler friendly tracks in NZ, the Indian batsmen had their asses handed to them on a platter. If your blog had existed in 1986, I would’ve said SL shouldn’t be playing in the WC then. If you are not particularly good at something, there’s no point competing with the elite. This is true in every walk of life, why should it be different in sport? You don’t see a high school drop out working in a nuclear power plant just because he is from a poor Kenyan family, do you?

    I am not being harsh, I do believe the ICC should do everything it can to help improve the state of the game in the minnow countries. But in a World Cup, where you want every player from every major nation at his best to ensure the competition remains good, stretching out the tournament for the sake of a few seems pointless to me. The minnows should play amongst themselves first, and establish a hierarchy to decide who competes with the best. Simply waking up on a Monday morning believing you can outscore Sachin Tendulkar borders on foolishness.

    I realize neither of us are going to change the other’s point of view, but it was a good discussion.

    • jrod says:

      DC, You don’t have to stretch it out, that is my point, it could be even quicker than it is now. The ICC stretched it out, because they are a poorly run body. And name a tournament in the world where all the teams are strong? It doesn’t happen, and it shouldn’t happen. Sport doesn’t exist the way you want it to, and part of that reason is because it is unpredictable, and the other is because on any given day Kenya can win a match, that it exists only once doesn’t lessen in. I used Kenya as proof that a minnow team could make the semi finals, you said what have they done since. Well Minnows have beaten India, England and Pakistan in the last two world cups. The teams at the bottom aren’t supposed to win all the time, they’re supposed to win on occasion. In every world cup since 99 a minnow country has beaten a major team, they’ve given us two of the fastest three hundreds in WC history, they’ve won a tournament, they’ve shown us that it isn’t just the test playing nations who play cricket, they’ve provided some of the best upsets, and they’ve given us great characters to talk about. That is sport, that is why they should always be there. Who is to say who the elite teams are, Sri Lanka weren’t one in 92, they won 2 of 8 or 9 games from memory, hardly competitive, but they won the next tournament.

  20. Phred says:

    The :) reflected in my comment should be a number eight …

  21. Dev says:

    Zimbabwe in 99 and 03 could hardly be considered minnows in the sense that they had many solid players (Flowers, Streak, Goodwin, Johnson to name the better players without considering the decent support of Strang, Brandes, Blignaut and Ervine).

    But most importantly, the ‘minnows’, however you define them need more support and more opportunities to play the big shots, of which retaining them in the WC is only one part. The big issue is that all associate nations are completely neglected by the ICC. Kenya had a good chance to capitalise on some fortune and good cricket post-2003 but lack of funding/opportunities means that they have stagnated. Ireland (and even Netherlands) are lucky in that their proximity to UK means a.) players can pick up county experience without taking foreigner quota and b.) infrastructural improvements can almost be passed through organically without too much interference.

    The ICC don’t want to develop the game at all beyond the main nations. Hell, even Kiwi players are under-funded and not given a competitive cricket calendar as the more marketable names.

  22. Russ says:

    JRod, 20 is not arbitrary, and I explained why in my first comment. I’ve also blogged about it in more detail here and here. In a 16 team world cup an associates needs to win a game against the top 8 to qualify. That is feasible, with a bit of luck (as Bangladesh and Ireland showed) but mostly it is a waste of time them being there, because that doesn’t happen often. There is also a broadcast agreement in place for 48 games, which means playing a super-8 with a 16 team world cup; that was tedious in 2007 and best not repeated.

    In a 20 team world cup, the associates are gunning for 3rd place, so they need only beat their fellow associates (or the bottom two test sides) to get a knockout game against a team ranked 5th to 8th. It gives them a reason to turn up other than charity. It also means (and this matters to the ICC) the test teams are guaranteed two extra games over a 16 team edition – one against an associate and one knockout (unless they play really badly). And it gives the test teams something to aim at in the first round, since 1st place in the group gets an advantage. From the perspective of a spectator interested in games with meaning and tension where a team needs to win to progress, it is far and away superior.

  23. let’s us not forget tournament like this is booster for these teams financially compare to what they actually make from their super minnows vs. minnows tournament.

    forget that, how many people have googled or dilated their pupils over RTD, KOB, Cheema, etc. in this world cup. This stage is the best stage to show what they have gotten. This is the one.

    To those who are Ok with 10 teams,
    Forget format of world cup, forget dryness of matches they play, forget minnow bashing, IT DOESN’t MATTER. You aren’t watching it, you aren’t going to stadium who cares!!! ICC has enough money, is making enough money, and ICC is missing the plot completely. Because, by not including them into Word Cup means bye bye Cricket to that Country, atleast bye bye those google searches and youtube video watching of Rao Vs Gul-Shahzad. You lost major viewing from that Country there. You can’t do much marketing there. And Cricket economy is already bad in those country and now ICC wants to cut the jugular.

    I don’t want to even go on how Great Govn’t of Zim., Kenya and Afghanistan is helping cricket … very thrilling.

    I say this was one of the best format. Minnows got 6 matches each. Had 6 opportunities to show their talent. What are the chances, they will get a call from domestic leagues in future.

  24. Russ says:

    JRod, possibly. I don’t disagree with the general sentiment Deep Cower is expressing. There is no point having minnows there if they can’t realistically advance to the next stage of the tournament. What I’d like to see from a world cup is a series of stages whereby every team has a half-decent opportunity to progress – it gives the associates and weaker test nations realistic aims, and it makes each game interesting. World cups are built on narratives of advancement, and they need to have a structure that provides that.

    Deep Cower is wrong on two points. Because the world cup has a 48 game minimum the number of teams in it has no bearing on the length of time it takes to play. You could play a 32 team world cup in fewer weeks than a 10 team one, if you were so inclined. Fewer teams means larger groups, more games per team, and less opportunity for chance to play a part in the final outcome. Some would consider that a good thing, but it also reduces the romance, and the meaning of individual games.

    The second is that if we posit that games between the top-8 and the rest are “mismatched” then the number of mismatches hardly varies as the size of the tournament changes. In a smaller tournament, fewer minnows play more games. A 10 team world cup will have 16 mismatches in the group stage, as will a 12 and 16 team edition. This one has 24, as would a 20 or 32 team tournament. All much of a muchness. Hence my argument above, an organiser should want to reduce the probability of mismatches, but there is only so much you can do. New Zealand has won or lost by massive margins every game; England’s games have all been close. You can’t plan for individual results. But you can plan it so that a team won’t be out of the tournament with 3 games left to play. That sort of scenario is just boring.

  25. Deep Cower says:

    Russ and JRod, Both of you want to give the associate nations a fair go. It is a noble thought and I appreciate it. Here are some of my thoughts.

    There are tons of things the ICC can do to make the cricket world better, lifting the 48 game minimum being one of them. It is, after all, an arbitrary number (presumably for television deals, I don’t know). There is nothing wrong with a shorter world cup with fewer teams. My issue is *not* with the time it takes to finish the world cup (though reading my previous post, I realize I didn’t make this clear), it is the number of matches. Take the case of strong players in a team. Resting them against weaker nations is a risk, because of the infamous “upset”. Playing them is again not advisable because invariably, the best players in every team are north of twenty eight, and it takes the body some time to recover between games. There is no point putting extra pressure on their bodies.

    I strongly disagree with JRod’s claim that weaker teams should be allowed to play because the prospect of upsets is alluring. In fact, this is precisely why they *shouldn’t* play. A World Cup should decide the best in the world, decided on the back of competitive games. India and Pakistan in the semis of the last world cup would’ve been great. The weaker teams cause upsets only to be blown away later. This serves only to rearrange the dynamics of the tournament. And not in a good way.

    And finally, I don’t understand why we are fixated on giving the associate nations a go *only* during the world cup. Two months from now, none of us would be talking about KOB or Cheema. This cannot help them at all. A more balanced, rational path to take would be to give them more series against the top teams all round the year. And help their grass-roots cricket. Another idea is to organize an entire world cup for teams that don’t have test status (and dump Bangladesh in this category). As I said before, I just don’t see how making Porterfield face Steyn and Morkel once every four years will boost his confidence and make Ireland competitive.

  26. Russ says:

    Deep Cower, I agree. But if we are talking about the next world cup we need to work within the limitations set forth. The 48 game minimum is set in the broadcasting contract, signed a half dozen years ago. A 10 team world cup will therefore have 48 matches, and the winner will play 11 games. Again, if your aim is to protect players from injury, more teams, smaller groups, fewer games (and more time to rest between them) are better.

    I agree to on dynamics. But context matters as much. A semi-final between India and Pakistan is huge. A group game between India and Pakistan that has limited bearing on the final standings is not. I’d rather watch a knockout between a weak test team and a strong one than a pointless game between two strong test sides. Sport, generally, is more interesting when players are under pressure. That’s why I want a tournament that gives every team a chance to progress early on, but makes things harder as they progress. The ICC want the opposite, a tournament where every team plays as many games as possible, then a final.

    And I agree too that associates need more exposure. In a more perfect world cricket would play supra-regional championships two years apart from the world cup, to double the level of exposure. A southern hemisphere championship with RSA,NZ,Aus,Zim,Kenya, Uganda, Namibia and PNG would be much more interesting than a Aus-NZ-RSA tri-series. There has been a world cup for non-test teams since the 1970s, but that won’t help a player face a bowler clocking 145km/h, or turning the ball square. They need to play the best to adjust to that level.

    But that doesn’t get around the issue of how many teams ought to be in a world cup. Cricket has 105 member nations now. When football reached that number they expanded to 24 teams; rugby (a similar sport to cricket in many ways) already plays 20 with teams. Cricket is unique in angling for a smaller tournament, and it is driven by money, because the tv companies want India to play as often as possible. That isn’t a worthy guiding principle for organising a sport.

  27. Kumar says:

    Jrod,

    You did’nt mention Hiren Patel’s love affair with the fielder at Third Man.

  28. Venkata Pendyala says:

    Deep Cower;

    Look I saw a lot more insignificant games in WC 2003 and WC 2007. Every non Australian country seemed to work hard to get pasted in the Final.
    Same could be said about 75 and 79 with the WI.
    I thought all the other matches were insignificant in these world cups and the other teams were fighting for 2nd place. In these 4 world cups; realistically there was no chance that any other team could have won the world cup.
    I would think Australia and the WI comprehensively and equivocally treated all other teams as minnows in terms of the results.

    So there should not be a World Cup by your longish arguements at all when we surely know that Gap between No 1 and No 2 in the rankings is quite high such as it was in 2007 and 2003.

    Thanks
    Venkat

  29. Sassenach says:

    Good discussion here guys.

    Personally I’m inclined to think that 2 minnows is probably the optimum number. there have never been more than 2 at any given WC who have given a decent account of themselves and the same has happened here. While I’m all for encouraging the minnows and giving them incentive to aspire to improvement, I also would rather not have a tournament filled with a load of one-sided mismatches and relatively unimportant, low pressure games.

    My proposal for the WC would be for a 12 team tournament split into two groups of 6. The winners advance direct to the semis and the 2nd/3rd placed teams play off for the remaining semi slots. This would ensure that pretty much every match would be significant so it should mean that far more of the games in the group stages were played with high intensity and capture the interest of the fans. It would also enable about 2 weeks to be cut from the duration of the tournament, which would be better for everybody. The 10 Test nations would automatically qualify and they’d be joined by two minnows, one of which would be the highest in the current rankings (or possibly based on a scoring system which takes into account consistency of results over a 4 year cycle but gives greater weight to recent performances) and the other would be the winner of a qualification tournament which would take place within 6 months of the WC.

    The advantages for the tournament as a whole are pretty obvious with this format, but I also thik it may be better for the minnows themselves. There would still be something to aspire to but at the same time they’d know they have to perform consistently and really strive for improvement if they want to get there, so the level of competition of rhtose two places ought to be really fierce. I also think that the ICC should do more to ensure that the best minnows get more games against the major sides every year to drive their improvement in non WC years, and that more slots be available for the T20 WC.

  30. kny789 says:

    Going off topic, but does anyone else always picture this dude when they see Peter Borren?

    http://www.google.co.uk/images?q=zeljko+ivanek&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=og&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi&biw=1279&bih=636

  31. Krishna says:

    Hi Jrod,

    Nice post which brings up a very important topic. By keeping the “minnows” out, the ICC is trying to make cricket an elite sport in my opinion. And make its coffers fatter if I may say so. Consider the recent Australia-Canada match in bangalore — the stands were half-empty which meant less ticket sales and lower TRPs for the television companies. However if they have only the top 8-10 teams and have each of them play the other, then the stands will always be full and more people will be glued to their TV sets.

    Maurice Ouma of Kenya remarked that the last time that Kenya played a full-member nation was in the last world cup. Now how can you expect a team to perform well at such a big stage when they aren’t given enough practice? Why can’t anyone in the ICC see this? Atleast make the “A” teams of the top 3 nations play against the associates often and watch the way they will grow in stature ! After all, Sri Lanka was a minnow and see where they are now?

  32. Eddie says:

    I wrote a blog in a similar vein which can be found here
    http://backofalength.blogspot.com/2011/03/should-they-stay-or-should-they-go.html

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