The World Is Back In the Cricket World Cup

Greek philosopher Heraclitus penned a now famous phrase, “Change is the only constant in life, ” and well, it seems that the Cricket World Cup (CWC) formats took this quote a little too seriously.

Group stage, round-robin, Super Sixes, Super Eights, knockouts—you name it, the format has been experimented with.

History Repeats Itself

From an 8-team event (1975, 1979), the CWC gradually grew to nine teams (1992), then 12 (1996, 1999), 14-teams (2003), and finally reached its inflection point with 16 teams in the 2007 Cricket World Cup.

The 2007 iteration was poorly received for various reasons, but one of the fallouts was halting the gradual expansion of Associate nations in World Cups. With genuine upsets from Ireland & Bangladesh against Pakistan, India, and later South Africa, the ICC lost a major chunk of funding.

The impact?

2011 & 2015 World Cups went back to the ‘90s formats with an elongated 14-team event, while the 10-team 2019 & 2023 events have revived the 1992 round-robin structure, providing as much game time (and hence, financial stability) for the big teams.

If It Is Broke, Fix It

The change of management has done wonders for the ICC—reducing the power of the Big 3, promoting the idea of cricket in the Olympics, and expanding the game with coordinated World Cups with a blockbuster World Cup schedule for the next decade:

  • Men’s ODI World Cup & Women’s ODI Champions Trophy (2023, 2027, 2031)
  • Women’s ODI World Cup & Men’s Champions Trophy (2025, 2029)
  • Women’s & Men’s T20I World Cups (2024, 2026, 2028, 2030)
  • World Test Championship Final (2023, 2025, 2027, 2029, 2031)

There is at least one major tournament for both men & women every year with the odd years also including the World Test Championship final.

Expansion Is the Will of the Nature

If you thought that was good news, hear this out.

The 54-match ODI World Cup is expanded to a 14-team affair (throwback to 2003) – 2 groups of 7, followed by Super Sixes, and finally the semi-finals & the finals.

The 55-match T20I World Cups will well and truly be a ‘world cup’—20 team tournament, 4 groups of 5, a Super Eight Stage, followed by semi-finals & finals. The T20I World Cup will guarantee at least 4 games for eight non-Test playing nations. Massive improvement.

With expanded World Cups, this provides incentive & motivation for Associate players to continue the game. Several Associate cricketers have taken premature retirements for opportunities elsewhere. This will add the fuel to keep them going.

Basketball has caught up with the FIFA benchmark of world cups with a 32-team event, while field hockey & rugby are 16-team affairs. It is time that cricket expand and catch up to the will of nature.

Revisiting the Glory Days

Remember Dwayne Leverlock’s one-handed stunner? Or Shapoor Zadran’s emotional celebration?

This is what World Cups are for—discovering new talents, cherishing the moments, providing a platform for smaller teams to grow, and promoting competition, not diminishing it.

The Associate Nations have provided numerous moments of glory—World Cup’s fastest century at the hand of Kevin O’Brien to hand England a defeat in Bangalore, Stuart Broad’s missed run-out/overthrow giving way for a Netherlands victory, Zimbabwe’s defeat to world-beaters Australia in 2007, and Bangladesh’s rise via CWC victories against Pakistan (1999), India, South Africa (2007), and England (2011, 2015).

Gruesome Qualifier Tournaments Out of the Window

With the expanded World Cup formats, one thing is for certain. The added salt to injury, also known as the Qualifiers, will have a lesser impact.

After Afghanistan & Ireland attained Test Status and became Full Members, the 2019 & 2023 formats were even more difficult to digest. It is a cricket sin for Full Members to not be a part of the World Cup. Zimbabwe & Ireland did not make it to the 2019 WC, and it is likely that even someone like Sri Lanka can lose out on a spot in the next world cup.

Case & point is the 2018 CWC Qualifier, one of the more closely fought tournaments in recent times. Scotland was in sight of qualifying at the expense of the West Indies or Afghanistan, when rain arrived and Scotland mathemagically lost by 5 runs due to the DL method. Zimbabwe also missed out on a qualification spot due a rained-out match.

An over or two should not determine fates for a World Cup qualification. Even worse was the T20 tournaments. After a 51-match qualification tournament for Associates, teams would enter a 3-match ‘pre-qualification’ stage in the actual world cup itself! Ludicrous.

In 2016, Bangladesh & Afghanistan proceeded to the next round while Zimbabwe, Scotland, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Oman, & Ireland crashed out.

Double disqualification, I like to call it. Survivor of the fittest ones that have the most money.

Warning: Potential Conflicts & T10 Format Ahead

Not everything will be fixed by expanding the Word Cup, however. Last month, the ICC backed T10 Cricket in Olympics. I am in full support of cricket in the Olympics albeit T20.

However, with a T20 World Cup now scheduled every two years, including 2028 & 2032, T20 cricket in the Los Angeles & Brisbane Summer Olympics look like a distant dream. Creating an international T10 format might be the only feasible choice, further crowding the international and the T10/T20 leagues calendar.

In any case, I will definitely take more context in cricket calendar, & support for the Associate & lower-ranked nations in exchange of embracing the T10 format.

It is the Little Moments That Matter

Did we really need a World Cup to prove that in the ‘80s the West Indians were a class apart or the Australians were the best in the world in the 2000s?

No, but a World Cup or Olympics is much more than that. So, why have predictable world cup formats?

Surprises & uncertainty, thrills & chills, unity in a divided world, and sportsmanship & hope amidst despair—that is what sport is all about.

It is about time cricket puts the world back in its so-called world cup.

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Copyright: Nitesh Mathur, 6/2/2021, bcd@brokencricketdreams.com

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Rethinking the ODI World Cup format

Ireland Vs England, 3rd ODI. What a game yesterday. Twin centuries by the seniors Paul Stirling and Andy Balbirnie with ample support from Harry Tector and the evergreen Kevin O’Brien, Ireland chased 329 against the World Cup holders, albeit without the likes of Stokes, Butler, and Archer.

That certainly does not take anything away from Ireland and breathes life into the new ODI Super League. So it is ideal to reflect on the ODI World Cup Super League (WSL) and current World Cup format now.

Does the ODI Super League and the World Cup provide enough exposure to grow cricket worldwide?

In a scathing review of the 2019 Cricket World Cup (CWC) format, the late Martin Crowe wrote an article proposing an innovate format where the teams and audience both benefit while the game still grows. The 40-over World Cup would consist of a pre-tournament qualifier, a two group conference based competition involving 18 teams, followed by a best of three semi-final and a Grand Finale. Although we provide another solution, this is a good template to reference.

ODI Super League – Good or Bad?

As a whole, I think the ODI Super League is a good idea. The top 13 teams in the world play a total of 8 three-match series (4 home/ 4 away) for a total of 24 games. The top 7 sides, along with the next World Cup hosts, qualify automatically for the World Cup, while the bottom five along with 5 associate play a qualifying tournament for the final two spots. This sounds a balanced format, unlike the World Test Championships, but the WSL still has major flaws.

Currently, the 12 test-playing nations are permanent ODI members, while the next 8 teams have temporary ODI status, with only one, the Netherlands qualifying for the ODI Super league.

In what world does this make any sense? If anything, the teams with temporary ODI status should have more exposure to the game so they can prove that they deserve the status. If only one out of the 8 teams is given a chance, it is likely that the one team will get better while the others lose their ODI status and eventually, their respective golden generations.

Finally, the qualifying tournaments in cricket do not provide any value. More often then not, the Associate Teams battle out the qualifiers, where several good teams miss out due to D/L method or a couple of tight games. Even Test-playing nations like Zimbabwe and Ireland missed out on the 2019 World Cup. Simply, the system is rigged against the Associate and lower-ranked nations.

What Should Happen

The current World Cup Super League should be expanded to all 20 teams, and the qualifying tournament should be eliminated altogether. More games should be allocated to the league so each team gets to play an equal number of opponents in each ranking tier (Tier 1: Rank 1-7, Tier 2: Rank 8-14, Tier 3: Rank 15-20). At the end of the four-year period, the top 15 teams qualify for the world cup automatically.

ODI World Cup Format

Group Stage: 3 Groups, 5 Teams Each – Top 3 from group qualify to the next round (30 games)

Super 9s: 3 groups, 3 Teams Each – Groups contain teams that have not played each other earlier (9 games)

Semis + 3rd Place Play-off: Top 3 + 4th ranked team from Super 9s (3 games)

Grand Finale: 1 game

Benefits:

  • Each team plays at least 4 games, so neither do we see a repeat of the 2007 World Cup where both India/Pakistan were eliminated prematurely, nor do we see several one-sided affairs.
  • 15 teams participate – the game grows
  • Each match is meaningful
  • Tournament is 43 matches long, five less than current format. Not quite Martin Crowe’s 18-team vision, but still a valid proposal.

Conclusion

The argument for the 2019 World Cup was that it would be competitive. At the end, only about 10 out the 48 games were close, it took Sri Lanka upsetting England 2 weeks in the tournament for the world cup to open up, and the 4-pre tournament favorites made the semi-finals. If we could just detach ourselves from that final, we could sum 2019 CWC in one word— Predictable.

Meanwhile, Ireland chased 300+ vs England (2011) and West-Indies (2015), Scotland upset England on the eve of the World Cup, and Afghanistan’s rise is a shining example. What else do the Associate nations need to do?

What is your ideal ODI world cup format? Please comment below and don’t forget to share and subscribe for more!

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Sources: ESPNCricinfo

Image courtesy of caribbeancricket / Ryan / CC BY creative commons license, some rights reserved.