Everyone knows that cricket’s World Cup is long. But just how long when compared to the two other major global team tournaments?
Taking a look:
2015 Rugby World Cup:
Number of teams: 20
Length of tournament: 43 days
2014 Football World Cup:
Number of teams: 32
Length of tournament: 31 days
2015 Cricket World Cup:
Number of teams: 14
Length of tournament: 43
Now, I love the cricket World Cup. I think it is an entertaining and competitive tournament that despite its flaws, usually puts on a pretty good show. And I think next year’s version in Australia will be no different – and that the 2019 Cup in England will be a true show piece.
But when compared to other global sports, it really is too long. It’s simply not marketable to a global audience as it currently stands.
Dropping teams is not the answer (not that that stopped the ICC’s Big Three), as it currently has six fewer teams than Rugby’s and 18 fewer teams than football’s – but still is tied with Rugby for the longest. The answer might be in the format. The Champions Trophy – especially last year’s iteration – is one example of a lightning quick, well fought, competitive ODI format. Unfortunately, that tournament leaves out the Associates and the bottom two full members. That right there takes the “World” right out of “World Cup”. But considering the drop off between the 8th ranked ODI team (West Indies) and the 9th ranked ODI team (Bangladesh), one could argue that leaving out weaker teams – while possibly making the tournament less global in nature – makes for a more entertaining – and shorter – tournament.
So the answer then becomes qualification. Start with all ICC member nations – seeded, of course, and grouped by region – and over the course of 18 months whittle them down to eight teams. Then it’s two groups of four, a semi-final and a final. 14 total matches. The whole thing is done in three weeks if not less.
As long as the Associates have the opportunity to qualify, then the tournament is fair and fun and balanced.
Except it’s not.
Because it’s cricket. And cricket is different than rugby. Different than football. Because unlike the “every given Sunday” nature of those sports (and most American sports), cricket, to quote Gideon Haigh, is “relentlessly” fair. 99 times out of a 100, the better team wins. And so in football while the occasional side – like, say, Honduras – will qualify out of a weak conference and make the “show” – that just wouldn’t happen in cricket. The game is too fair.
And it’s not global enough. South Korea and Cameroon are horrible football teams, but they qualified for the biggest sporting event on earth simply because they play in the right conference.
And so the Associates in cricket would still be frozen out of a World Cup even if they got to chance to play the big boys – which of course would never happen because of the balance of power in the game, but for the sake of argument – they would still be frozen out because they would always lose. And because the game is not global enough, and so a weak team would never get a shot at the spotlight just because they happen to reside in a weak conference.
So what’s the answer?
How to make the ODI World Cup competitive, inclusive and marketable?
I, of course, do not have the answer, as there is no silver bullet in this situation. But, that said, if football can do it – when you consider they are governed by one of the most corrupt organizations on earth – then cricket can do it too.
The first step? Wipe the slate clean. Keep the 2019 tournament in England but start RIGHT NOW in planning something different that makes the World Cup an event that everyone – cricket fan or not – tunes into the final of. Maybe even a couple of Americans.