The 10th ICC ODI World Cup features 14 teams. Of these, only six to eight teams have a realistic chance of winning the cup.
Discerning followers of the game have short-listed five teams to lift the trophy—India, Sri Lanka, South Africa, England and Australia.
The minnows in the field—Kenya, Ireland, Netherlands, Canada and Zimbabwe—will ,in all probability, pack their bags and leave immediately following the group stage. The current tournament format allows stronger teams enough leeway to overcome any unpleasant surprises or upsets. Playing six games in under a month is not too taxing for any of the teams.
Unless bad form and injuries beset a team, consistency and sustainability will be rewarded this Indian spring.
The question arises: Are the minnows here merely to make up the numbers? Is this the best way to promote the game in non-Test playing nations? Can an appearance once in four years assist a nation in making a cricketing statement?
Suggestions for a two-phase cup featured on a televised panel discussion. Something on the lines of the Ranji trophy—Plate and Elite divisions—is a possibility.
This would imply the bottom eight teams fight it out among themselves for promotion to the Elite division. ODI rankings decide who feature in the top eight.
A couple of problems with this scenario:
The television audience and paying public would be proportional to the ranking of the teams in the fray. There is a danger of the top two teams from the Plate division becoming more accustomed to the local conditions and carrying their momentum into the knock-out phase. (Unlikely?)
This could be mitigated by either practice matches and/or tri-series. There could be an interesting side-effect—the practice matches would have more viewers than the Plate matches.(Definitely likely)
The bottom six would still be chosen via the Associate play-offs.
This is a scenario probably visited by wise men of the ICC and evidently discarded.
However, all this is moot with ICC administrators set to restrict the 2015 World Cup to Test-playing nations. Not quite the way to promote the game. Scheduling more tours by Test-playing nations—even ‘A’ sides—may be the answer.
T20s and ODIs could be played as tri-series with each Test-playing nation inviting Associate teams at least twice a year.
A leading Indian daily ran an online poll (for the heck of me, I can’t recall which) asking readers to vote for the strongest Indian team—Kapil’s Devils in 1983, Sourav Ganguly’s boys in 2003 and MS Dhoni’s 2011 squad. Unsurprisingly, the current Indian squad came out ahead by a huge margin.
I voted for Ganguly’s squad of 2003 for two reasons:
The team lost just two matches in that World Cup—both to eventual champions, Australia— and secondly comparisons ought to be made taking into consideration the quality of the opposition.
The present Australian side is a pale shadow of its glorious predecessors. Indian conditions allow Dhoni’s boys to loom larger than life against relatively weaker opposition.
In no way, does this belittle Team India’s chances of winning the trophy. The opposition and conditions are more than conducive. Throw into the mix a minor ingredient called luck and Team India could whip up a heady broth.
What do you think?
Quote of the day:
The best doctor in the world is the veterinarian. He can’t ask his patients what is the matter-he’s got to just know. – Will Rogers