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    February 22, 2011

    Those who get the short shrift at the World Cup

    Last week, Haroon Lorgat, the ICC Chief Executive, announced that the 2015 World Cup would feature 10 teams. This almost effectively means that Associates and Affiliate members have no chance of competing (or is it participating?) at the tournament, unless the ICC introduces a qualification tournament.

    Around the time the 2007 tournament was still coming to terms with the early exit of India & Pakistan, I wrote that weaker teams should play in the tournament, but they should also get enough games against stronger opposition in the year leading up to the World Cup. I proposed a qualification round featuring the finalists from the ICC Trophy and the teams ranked #9-#11 in the ICC's ODI rankings. The top teams from a 10-game round-robin tournament make it to the main draw, which would now have a total of 10 teams.

    There are lots of arguments for and against the inclusion of minnow sides. It is undeniable that these teams get thrashed pretty much all the time. Across all games played at the World Cup, ICC Champions Trophy (& its earlier avatars) and the T20 World Cup, 9 out of the top 10 thrashings (margin of defeat in terms of runs) have been handed out to minnow sides. Yet, #11 in the list is England's 200-run thrashing of India in the 1975 Cup opener.

    The 10 lowest all-out totals have been made by minnow sides. Sri Lanka feature as the punching bag on quite a few occasions on both lists. They've not done badly over the past 25-30 years, have they? Admittedly, they do have a few more things going for them (compared to say Canada).

    In my opinion, the minnow sides Cup can (and must?) actually be supported by one or more of the main teams. For e.g., Bermuda by West Indies; USA & Canada by Australia/New Zealand; Scotland, Ireland & Netherlands by England; Afghanistan (& Bangladesh to some extent) by India/Pakistan/Sri Lanka and Namibia, Kenya (& Zimbabwe) by South Africa. This should include the 'A' team playing home & away series against the minnow side's national and 2nd XIs as well as under-19 tours.

    If the ICC can't get the individual boards to agree and implement a development programme for associate and affiliate members that makes sense, and helps them prepare to play at a good level, the ICC should just announce that this whole "Let's globalize cricket" idea was just a pile of nonsense. The minnow sides get the short shrift at pretty much every ICC event, and you feel genuinely sorry to see sides with talent who get blown away because of lack of opportunities.

    I feel the same way when it comes to the Indian cricket fan who pays his way to watch cricket at stadiums. In general, cricket stadiums (or stadia?) in India tend to be massive 50,000+ capacity concrete structures with pathetic spectator facilities.

    The bulk of the 50,000+ seats are allotted to corporates, sponsors, people in (or close to) power and affiliate clubs of the state association. This typically leaves around 10-20000 tickets for the general public, usually resulting in a mad rush and stampede when the ticket counter opens. On quite a few occasions, the purchasers of most of these tickets find that they've landed a lemon, because of a ticket scam.

    All the stadiums that're hosting World Cup games have gone through significant renovations, primarily targeted at improving player facilities. From all reports, it seems like there have actually been on-ground improvements. Yet, the upgrades have come at a cost. To take just 3 examples, the Wankhede and Chepauk will seat 10% less while Eden Gardens will seat 25% less.

    That decrease in capacity will quite likely not impact the hand-outs to sponsors, affiliate clubs and local bigwigs. The only ones who will get the short shrift are those who brave any sort of weather to queue up and buy tickets.

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    Thus spake Jagadish @ 12:35 am |
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