A Dream Left To Chance

I saw the fixtures  of the 2011 Cricket World Cup a couple of weeks ago. What a shocker it is! The format is such that the cup is almost a lottery. Ok! No more build up. I come to the matter.

There are two groups of seven teams each. During the first round, each team plays against every other team in its group (similar to 2003).Now comes the twist. Unlike 2003, when top three teams from each group qualified and competed in the super six, now top FOUR teams will qualify and compete in quarter finals.

The administrators might have chosen this format for the following reasons.

  1. In the last world cup there were 16 teams with top two from each group making it to the super-eight. The super-eight was thought to be too long by many people (24 games).The idea is by replacing the super-eight by quarter-finals they are reducing the number of games.
  2. They might have wanted to make it tough for the minnows to proceed to the later stges of the tournament by making them play more games in the first round. In the last World Cup each team played 3 games in the first round. A minnow had to upset one big team and beat the other minnow in its group to qualify (two teams did this – Ireland and Bangladesh). After the minnows made it to super-eight they were easily beaten by the other big teams and those games were pretty boring.

Why is this new format a lottery ?

Let’s look at the two groups.

Group A:Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Kenya , Canada

Group B:India, South Africa, England, West Indies, Bangladesh, Ireland, The Netherlands

If Bangladesh and Zimbabwe had been competitive in international cricket, this format would have been fine. But, currently they are not. Isn’t it obvious which eight teams will qualify for the quarter-finals? Practically, only eight teams compete in the World Cup.

With Bangladesh and Ireland in Group B, there is some chance for upsets, whereas there is no such question in Group A. This means that all the 21 games in Group A are inconsequential! What a genius format!

Group B would become interesting only if the minnows win one or two games. Hope they do not win against your favourite team , because it is gonna be tough for you if you lose to a minnow.

The administrators have put Bangladesh and Ireland – two minnows that caused upsets in the previous World Cup- in the same group. If one of them were in Group A , things could have been more interesting.

Assuming all the big names come through to the quarters, (this is very likely because Bangladesh and Ireland cannot qualify by virtue of beating just one big team like the 2007 World Cup) it is a matter of winning three games in a row. That is, even if a team is flat for one and a half months and hot for just that one week, they will be World Champions. This is an advantage for slow starters like Pakistan and West Indies.

Compared to this scenario, in the 2007 World Cup if a big team was flat for just one game in the first week, you will be knocked out. This happened to two teams last time and it can happen to ANY team.

Both ideas are bad I feel. Personally, I think the 1999 World Cup format was the best. If you were flat in the first month, you will make things tough for yourself later, but you won’t be knocked out. For example, India in Group A and Australia in Group B “just about qualified”  for the super-six in that World Cup. This meant that both teams had to win all their three games to make it to the semis, whereas teams like Pakistan and South Africa which did very well early on had to win one or two games only. Australia executed that tough task beautifully and went on to win the World Cup.

Many cricketers usually decide to quit after a World Cup with the hope of giving one last try to achieve their dream.I feel sorryfor those guys. I wonder if many cricketers have  seen this format. When they see it, they might feel that their dream of winning a World Cup has been left to chance.


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