Monday, April 30, 2007

Where Now for the ICC World Cup? - leeroycal

Media and fans alike are tearing at the fetid remains of the Cricket World Cup like a pack of rabid Hyenas. The difference being that Hyenas usually laugh; there is no amusement to be had here at all. But can we take a rib from the bones of this tournament and create a whole new being, as God apparently did with Eve: a thing of beauty, a tournament fit for purpose, something people actually want to watch?

Forgetting the obvious ICC cock-ups, the biggest problem with the World Cup is the cricket itself. There are not enough truly competetive fixtures from the outset, in that teams can lose a number of matches and still get to the semis. The crowds know this and the players know this, threfore there is no intensity from the players and thus no interest from the spectators. I have been watching this tournament throughout (unfortunately), and I can count on two fingers the number of conversations I have had about it: it is too long and too many matches inconsequential to care.

The ICC simply have to find a way of harnessing the games that are happening all over the world as teams tour and play each other. The cricketing calendar is currently an endless merry-go-round of triangular series' and back to back ODIs that mean very little; these could and should be used as some kind of qualifying regime.

This would take the form of a two division World League, with the top eight teams in Division 1 and the next eight in Division 2. A schedule of games would then be agreed over a 4 year period in which points are accrued; nations could of course arrange fixtures outside of this schedule as well. This would lead to a seeded 16-team straightforward knockout competition at the end of the qualifying period. Imagine that - a World Cup that is only 15 games long: more flexible scheduling; an end to the comedy Duckworth Lewis nonsense in the big games; no need for semi finals to be played midweek.

Of course this format could increase the risk that top teams could go out early, and if it does so what? This is sport, and it just may reduce this risk as it will force big teams to get their game faces on early.


Ebren said...

Nice idea Lee. I think the words that makes this system fail are "TV money".

I think the idea mentioned on the blogs earler was quite good - straight knock out, but more than one game.

Best of three for the quarters, best of five for the semis, best of seven for the final.

Zephirine said...

As I said in the other place, Lee, I really like this idea. It would give far more coherence to the ODI schedule and keep the interest bubbling along through the four-year period.

Obviously the TV people would lose their big fat advertising cow of a World Cup, but some of the qualifying series would take on more importance and no doubt they'd be quick to exploit those.

mimi said...

the idea of the World cup as a fair tournament that the world could actually enjoy, is obviously an alien concept to the ICC. I have no easy answers to their dilemmas apart from fire the fucking lot of them and start again from scratch. Let the fans words be worth something. Let them listen to us.
I have put my life on hold for 7 weeks to follow this competition, and mostly been rewarded with shit. It is only outwith the auspices of the ICC that there has been any reward to find.
Couldn't organize a piss-up in a brewery. A comment that could have been written for the ICC.

nesta said...

I watched 42 of the 51 World Cup matches and alot of the cricket played was of an excellent standard. Close games doesn't necessarily mean good cricket. Good cricket is intelligent bowling, fine partherships with brilliant strokeplay, athletic fielding and innovative captaincy and more.

I very much take exception to the phrase 'there is no intensity from the players'. What an awful generalistaion. The winners played their strongest team in every match and played with a near ferocious intensity for every over. Ireland and Bangladesh tried their guts out as did other teams.

I wonder if you actually watched the matches in full. The Pakistan v Ireland match was one of the most nailbiting matches you could ever see. The Sri Lanka v England and the Sri Lanka v South Africa match were also heart thumping. These are just from the top of my head and there were other matches that were highly entertaining if you focus on the cricket and not on the result.

Mcgrath's spell to knock over the SAF top order in the semi was a gem as was any one of Hayden's hundreds. Jayawardena's ton in the other semi was a sight to behold and a masterclass on how to build and accelerate a ODI innings. Murali's 4 for in the same match displayed all his cunning. Gilchrist hit one of the alltime great centuries in the final. Lara's 77 against Australia was filled with brilliant and innovative strokeplay as was Pietersen's innings against the Windies. Hogg's dismissal of Flintoff was masterful bowling. I could go on and on. You sure are hard to please.

Your article doesn't seem to be about cricket - that is the contest between bat and ball - but about sports administration. And that's why your statement that 'the biggest problem with the World Cup is the cricket itself'. is complete garbage.

Cricket is a democratic sport and if you really want to see change get involved with your local Association and get yourself elected.

The cricket at this World Cup was fine and the winners showed the rest how to play the game. The format should change, no disagreement there but to say the Cup lacked intensity on the field or that the cricket played was the 'problem' is absurdity at its worse.

Overall a poorly written one sided article full of generalisations with no real concluding paragraph or intelligent arguments.

Lee said...


I take some of your points, but surely you must realise you are in the minority in suggesting this world cup was enjoyable. You will find very few people who will look back on the tournament as a whole and remember it as a success.

Nobody turned up to watch and it has been panned by everyone.

I think my comment about a lack of intensity is a fair one: yes Australia were an exception, but West Indies; England; Pakistan; India were not in the right frame of mind for the competition because the competition itself did not create the situation where they had to be. Why do you think that Bangladesh and Ireland were so intense? There was greater desire from them to beat teams that are better. I would also make the point that intensity is not simply about trying, it is about performing and applying yourself in what should be the toughest challenge - a world cup match.

I'm sorry but in my opinion good cricket has a lot to do with close contests, especially one-day cricket. It is after all a contest between two teams as well as bat and ball.

Ask most fans what they would want to see - a fabulous opening spell from a bowler that renders the opposition 25-5 and lays the foundations for a walkover, or a game in which both teams get a decent score and it goes to the wire and I know what answer I would get. This is certainly not "absurdity", as you put it.

Yes there were passages of play that I enjoyed, but for me you cannot escape the fact that the tournament has been a damp squib. Your comment seems to suggest I have a lack of love or understanding of the game for saying this and that is simply not true.

I have simply taken what the whole world and his wife thinks about the World Cup and tried to suggest a viable alternative. It's hard not to "generalise' with such a piece as this as it is a big subject. I suppose I could have added a few caveats here and there to prove I actually watched the games - a you seem to doubt that I did.

MotM said...

Nesta - I have some sympathy with your views, but the excitement was too dilute over so long an event, the tournament was characterised by players executing skills some (mainly Australians) very well, others as if programmed by a computer geek and predictability in players' approaches to challenges.

As I have written before (and Gilchrist's innings was a good example of this) there were times when I felt like I was looking at art: huge talent, genius even; great skills; thought-provoking. But for my sport I want competition and, apart from Langeveldt hanging on for the Saffers vs Malinga and co and Ireland standing up to Mohammad Sami, that raw competition was largely lacking.

Overall, I favour Lee's spleen over your fine defence of what is still a fine game, but a game very much on the slide.

nesta said...


If my post seemed like a personal attack I am sorry it wasn't my intention. It would seem you cobbled this together in about 20 minutes and didn't give it too much thought.

You were being very unfair to the players and teams that gave it their all. That they weren't good enough to 'compete' is beside the point. I never saw for example Shane Bond or Scott Styris give anything other than their best effort.

I didn't mention it in my last post but do you really understand how international cricket is organised?

THe ICC are only responsible at ODI level for the World Cup and the Champions Trophy. They have no authority and little influence over individual countries scheduling. These are left to the individual boards. If there is too much cricket played between the ICC tournaments the blame cannot be laid at their door in Dubai.

For example Australia's scheduling for the rest of the calandar year is: The 20/20 world Cup, 3 ODIs against NZL and 3 Tests, 2 against SRL and 1 against India. I wouldn't call that too much cricket.

To crystalise the point it is not the ICC's fault that individual countries play too much. I agree that the tournament was poorly managed but to question the players integrity is just plain wrong. If a countries board burnout their players it is their own fault and they will reap what they sow.

nesta said...

And one last thing.

Cricket is not a game that usually produces 'close' results. That is its beauty. Because it is the ultimate test of character and skill 99% of the time the better players (team) wins.

Often the weaker team is beaten before the last wicket is taken or run is scored. It doesn't matter which format the game is played the better team invariably wins and wins well.

Go over to Cricinfo and have a look at the results of say the last 5 years of ODIs. You will see that less than 10% of matches could be described as close at the finish.

But here is the catch. At some time during almost all those matches a player scores quickly or a bowler takes a few wickets in a spell and turns the match in his teams favour. After that it's just a matter of holding their nerve and getting the basics right to win.

A good game of cricket does not depend on the 'result' but on the execution of skills under pressure. That's why cricket stands apart from most other sports. It's not about the winning but the doing. The result takes care of itself.

It's not to everyone's tastes I know but enough people appreciate the quirks of the game for it to be the number one summer sport for a quarter of the planet's population. That won't change because of the ICCs ineptitude. The roots are too deep.

Margin said...

It does make you wonder why the world cup can't be made simpler.

even a sixteen team tournament could be arranged into four groups of four with two qualifiers from each - and then a straight knock out from that point on.

Thats 31 matches - most of which would matter a lot.

I'd hesitate to call for an eight team tournament as that would diminish interest from those countries not involved. And it is important that countries like Bangladesh grow the interest in their national side.

And in terms of qualifying for the world cup - something along those lines would be great. the problem with the ceding system at present means a new cricketing nation knows it will take years to get close. but with a simple qualification system they could at least hope for an unlikely premature breakthrough.

and that could be good for the sport worldwide is it draws in new interest.

levremance said...

It's a good debate and I can see good points on both sides.
Here's how an Aussie Rules finals system might apply:

4 groups of four seeded based on various qualifying fixtures = 24 games;

Winner of each group goes into top 4 of the final eight, positions determined by points then run rate - 1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3 play best of 3 finals with winners going thru to preliminary finals and losers getting double-chance against 2nd placed sides in group games = min 4 max 6 games;

Second placed sides in group games goes into bottom 4 of the final eight, positions determined by points then run rate - 5 vs 8 and 6 vs 7 play best of 3 finals with winners going thru to qualifying finals and losers eliminated = min 4 max 6 games;

Qualifying finals are losers of 1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3 playing winners of 5 vs 8 and 6 vs 7 to go thru to Preliminary finals in best of 3 games giving a minimum of 4 and max of 6 games;

Preliminary finals are winner of 1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3 playing winners of Qualifying finals with a changeover to avoid repeat clashes (ie 1 vs 3 and 2 vs 4 if results went by ranking) in best of 3 games giving a minimum of 4 and max of 6 games;

Grand Final is the winner of the preliminary finals in a best of 5 finals series giving min of 3 games and a max of 5 games.

Tournament games min 43 max 53

Lee said...


Just to clarify I didn't question the integrity of the players, I questioned their intesity, and even that is not their fault; it is the nature of the tournament itself that can lead to coasting. However if I was a bit tough on the players so what? At the end of the day all sport is basically entertainment, and I felt it was mostly sub-standard at the WC. You disagree, which is fair enough.

I did cobble it together in 20 minutes, but my thought process was longer than that. I'm interested to know how long it is meant to take to write a few hundred words? The last thing I wanted to do was give chapter and verse on how the new regime would actually work; and you know, journalists generalise - even pretend ones like me!

Yes I do understand how international cricket works; hence I was suggesting that it be changed so the ICC plan (or adopt) a certain number of games over a 4 year period to contribute towards seeded qualification. The rest of the time individial countries can organise what they wish to. I didn't suggest that countries play too much, I suggested that what they are playing be used productively by the ICC.

Re your final point about results vs performance. I love the game for those reasons also, although I believe that has more of a place in the test arena. ODI's were introduced with the hope of creating closer contests. I'm not saying that my proposals wil guarantee that in any way, but I think it wuill facilitate a situation that will make it more likely.

Lee said...

and all of you can read more of my (and MOTM's and Mimi's) ill informed, absurd and poorly thought out rants at

nesta said...


Good journalism be it amateur or professional does not generalise. It is meant to present the facts in an informative and entertaining manner and if opinion is desired backed up by solid arguments and credible sources.

I have no problem with your suggestions for a new World Cup format. Anything would be an improvement on the 2007 version. However, your sweeping generalisations and obvious lack of respect for the combatants are not really conducive to informed argument and rather are indiciative of an argument that is, at best, worthy of inclusion in the tabloids or a trashy magazine.

Psuedscorner on the whole present good intelligent well written articles. Your writing is perhaps the worst I've encountered so far.

You can accept the criticism for what it is, constructive, or you can let ego blind you. Your choice.

Margin said...


in fairness to Lee - he started out by saying that fans and media had condemned the world cup (largely true) - and his criticism, though it didn't include the disclaimer that players still always care, ddoes reflect the wide spread condemnation.

nesta said...

Margin. This article implies and in fairness, probably through poor expression, that there was 'no intensity from the players'. Perhaps due to the lack of atmosphere it may have seemed that way on TV but I saw no player not playing with purpose when the match was up for grabs. To label them otherwise is a huge slur on over a hundred international sportsmen. So let's be more than fair and name them. Who are the players who didn't have a go? And in what matches? We may find a pattern and uncover some dark truth. It's worth exploring to see if it is true.

We all know the World Cup could have been better organised but pointing the fingers at the players is off the mark.

Just because the many believe something doesn't make it so. Surely you know that.

Lee said...


I do accept your criticism, and I am not so thick as to think that everyone will like what I write and the way in which I write it. My ego rarely blinds me to anything, it is usually my dazzling good looks and repartee that does that ;-)

It was vent-spleen piece, but I think my basis of the argument still stands up to scrutiny, which was that the competition does not create the correct environment in which truly focussed and competitive cricket can thrive; and I think on that we agree.

I have written a few pieces on here - were they all as distasteful to you as this one? I'm interested if it is generally my style or the substance of this piece that you do not like.

Margin said...


This past week I have read dozens of stories on web and in papers about how modern lazy prima dona footballers should be shamed by Alan Ball's example.

I don't agree for a second that footballers don't try. and frankly the stereotypical 'prima donas' don't seem to under achieve at all.

so I wrote an article about Ball myself and posted it below.

So do likewise - counter the notion that players were not really up for the meaningless games at the world cup by writing an article.

because as it goes i agree with you that they try hard in all competitive games - but I don't think its a terrible offense that the article suggested otherwise. a lot of the world cup was lacklustre one way or another.

Lee said...

I think "trying hard" is a bit of a red herring actually. I think most people try hard at their jobs.

My point was about creating a situation where every game is, "win or you're out". This would not make people try harder perhaps, but it would focus them to the kind of intensity required at this level of competition to perform their jobs to the highest standards.

Australia are always the caveat, as they have a method of preparing that eliminates this problem - they are the Tiger Woods of Cricket if you like.

But South Africa were victims of it against Bangladesh; likewise India. In the Indian example they could not rouse themselves out of their collective performance slumber at all. A change of format would address this I feel.

nesta said...


I don't disagree that every match should have consequences for the loser. In fact a team like Australia gave every match they played meaning by taking each opponent very seriously incl. Ireland. As you would expect in a World Cup.

That some other teams struggled to keep focus was not primarily down to the format. Team spirit and other intangibles played their part.

Using India as an example I think you are being unfair to Bangladesh. They played some sparkling cricket in that match and if memory serves me correct three World cup debutants all under 21 played attacking and inventive innings. Razzaq and Rafique bowled a beautiful spell in tandem to restrict the Indian total. In reality India found themselves under such 'intensity' that they buckled. The way the Bangas played that day was exhilarating and refreshing. In all a good cricket match.

When India played Sri Lanka it was sudden death for Dravid and co. That match meant more to them than any since Australia spanked them in the final 4 years earlier. If their intensity was lacking for that match (and it wasn't)it had nothing to do with the format.

They were doing fine in their chase till they experienced a middle order collapse due to a run out and the intense pressure that Murali created in the middle overs. basically the Lankans were too good for them.

Good cricket and decisive moments were apparent in every match. As I've stated above cricket does not produce close matches that often. the matches are won or lost before the last ball in the vast majority of matches. In fact if you do a little research on previous World Cups and Champions trophies you'd see the proportion of close finishes at this cup was about the average. 1 in 10.

In many games the matches were close it's just that they were won three quarters through the match and not at the end. You see this in many sports except in cricket their is always the chance of defeat or victory right up to the last instant. Malinga and Langveldt proved that.

Lee you have clumsily aped a whole lotta crap that the mainstream media is feeding the masses and stuck a knockout format on the end. There isn't even a proper conclusion. You can do better than that. You know it and so do I.

I don't come to psueds to read regurgited pap. I expect original musings on interesting topics.

No hard feelings.

Lee said...

no hard feelings at all mate

Zeph said...

Tell you one thing I really did get fed up with during the CWC - highly paid journalists sitting in the Caribbean complaining about how boring it all was.

'No intensity', hm. Perhaps it was an ill-advised phrase, Lee, and Nesta has rightly pointed out that many players were working their guts out. But I know what you mean - how often have we all screamed at the England players to make more effort, concentrate, play to their potential?

Perhaps it's unfair - perhaps, when it seems as if a player isn't bothering, he's actually just completely outclassed by the opposition. Like Ross Taylor, so totally foxed by Malinga that the only thing to do was laugh.

mimi said...

Why not make it even more complex and arcane? Allow teams to amass points prior to the first group games based on ODI results over the preceding 2 years. This would encourage countries to play the same number of ODIs in the run-up, and you could even introduce a scoring system by which away wickets and runs were worth more than home ones! Nah, that would just be silly, and if there's one thing the ICC isn't ... fill in your own ending here.

bluedaddy said...

Am a bit late to this, but I just wanted to say that it was an interesting debate. While passionate, even heated, it did draw out the issues.

Setting aside the subject matter, I would comment that the article itself was a bit slapdash. I think it is always desirable to be able to look back at a considered piece and be happy that it represents your views (while probably seeing minor improvements), but if you are submitting a rant I think it is best to make that very clear. "therefore there is no intensity from the players and thus no interest from the spectators" is broad brush to the point of being tabloidese, which is best avoided (unless very drunk).

Saying all that, Nesta I do think you teetered over the edge into a personal attack with "You can accept the criticism for what it is, constructive, or you can let ego blind you. Your choice". It's a bit too 'Talk to the hand' for my tastes. You put up a strong defence of the players, and wrote a pretty forensic argument against Lee's viewpoint. He responded thoughtfully and politely whilst sticking to the germ of his argument.

I think all in all this thread is closer to what the blog's esteemed founder was hoping for at the outset.

Cheers to all


nesta said...


I disagree that I 'teetered over the edge'. I fell off the cliff. I lost balance because it is as easy to denigrate as it is to wipe your arse.
And I see it too often. That said lee's article made for lively debate and there is no harm in that.

MotM said...


It's late now of course, but I did see varying degrees of intensity.

Leaving Australia aside (as we must as they are so far ahead in every element of the game), I found Kallis much more intense after a bollocking for throwing away momentum vs Australia. I found Mohammad Sami's bowling against Ireland as sensationally intense as the earlier batting was laxsidaisical. Malinga was intense throughout, but I felt Chaminda Vaas was often a bit comfortable now he didn't have to carry the pace attack. Nixon was intense throughout, KP would come and go, and Saj was, well, distracted I felt.

I don't find any of this unusual or suspicious. As a pseud, do you find it easier at some times to write than at other times? Cricketers will be no different.

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