Save our Associates
So, the English cricket season is over and many of you lucky souls will be jetting off for the first winter tour to the UAE or the second to South Africa, or maybe even both (although you'd have to have a skewed intelligence to earnings ratio to be able to do that at Barmy Army tour prices!). I have neither to look forward to, thanks to the restriction of school term times and the impossible price-hikes for flights in the holidays. So I'm making do with the Rugby World Cup.
The Rugby World Cup has been pretty intriguing so far. Of course, Canada, Georgia and the like will lose most of their games and it's not a little frustrating that England's pool is rather more competitive than most. I type this full of nerves for Robshaw's men and their must-win match against Australia, kicking off in under two hours. It's hideous to know that by publication date, England's fate will be sealed. Eeek!
Anyway, this Rugby World Cup thing is relevant: there are 20 teams in the tournament, divided into four groups of five. Each group has a national team that is not expected to win any of its matches, but is expected to help grow the game's audience abroad and help develop - and this is key - the skills and prospects of its players so that one day they might be more challenging opponents. Uruguay's team is made up almost exclusively of amateurs who have given up day jobs to compete in this tournament; Japan provided the shock of the decade in beating South Africa. And we all know similar things have happened in Cricket World Cups. England have been felled by Associate minnows; others have also been humbled. But this won't be happening any more, thanks to the course taken by the so-called guardians of our game.
The ICC's decision to cut the number of teams in the full ODI World Cup is, in my eyes, totally wrong. They've seen people getting bored of the format of the tournament and decided the only natural thing is to cut us down to ten teams (there were fourteen at the 2011 and 2015 tournaments). Well they may as well cut it to eight and skip straight to the quarter-finals if they're going to do that. And it already exists: it's called the Champions Trophy, and the clue is in the name. This is the tournament just for the elite cricketing nations; the World Cup is meant to be an opportunity to showcase our best talents while also opening our arms to the world and inviting them to join in our **Richie Benaud voice** marvellous sport.
I would do it this way: four seeded groups that might look something like the below model. Play three group games per day with staggered start times. Winner of each group only goes through to semi-finals followed, of course, by what we would all expect to be a big-team final.
England - West Indies - Bangladesh - Afghanistan
Australia - Pakistan - Zimbabwe - Scotland
South Africa - New Zealand - Ireland - UAE
India - Sri Lanka - Netherlands - Papua New Guinea
I'm sure there are plenty of reasons why my plan wouldn't work, many of them related to media revenue, but to be frank I pretty much hate ODI cricket anyway. Give me T20, give me tests, but the fact that even I am here trying to save the ICC from its own slaughter of the fifty over game just demonstrates the trouble it's getting itself into.