Friday, March 16, 2007

 

The Real World Cup

An acquaintance of mine, a retired magistrate with a mischievous sense of humour, reacted with indifference a few months ago when I informed him that I'd been to Germany for the 2006 World Cup (the football version). He stated that he was waiting for the real World Cup to begin later this year. "Which is that?" I enquired. "The Rugby World Cup!" he replied triumphantly, with the merest twinkle in his eye.

In the past few days, we've been assailed with news of the latest World Cup to demand the attention of a parochial nation. The Cricket World Cup.

This event started in 1975, and I'll admit that its early instalments promised much; the thrilling final of the inaugural tournament, with Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson nearly snatching victory against the odds with a brave tenth-wicket stand, was an excellent start. The shock of India's victory over the mighty West Indies in 1983 lived long in the memory. Australia's unexpected triumph in the 1987 tournament could be said to have kick-started our recovery in the late eighties.

After that, things got a bit messy. And it's interesting to see how the changes to cricket's world championship - which is still, of course, really a Commonwealth championship - paralleled the development of the football World Cup.

In 1992, the cricket World Cup went all-in round-robin in its early stages. This made a mockery of the very idea of a "cup" competition, but the problem was that more games were required to give the event credibility (and TV revenue). In 1983 and 1987 the four-team groups had been double round-robin (reminiscent of the football World Cups of 1974 and 1978, when there were two group stages), but in 1992 even the likes of Zimbabwe played eight preliminary games.

That 1992 tournament was further compromised by the absurd rule then in place for rain-affected games, which made an utter farce of the England v. South Africa semi-final, among others. And the tournament was eventually won by a side that had won only one of its first five games.

So, the all-in round robin experiment went by the wayside. But in 1996 the era of expansion began...an echo of the 1982 (football) World Cup.

The problem was that only the commonwealth sides played remotely decent cricket. So it was that I watched a World Cup in 1996 featuring a UAE bowling attack that I (a half-reasonable club cricketer at the time) was pretty confident I could rack up a half-century against.

Once expansion starts in these events, there's no holding back the tide. And it's got very little to do with sporting quality, and very much to do with TV revenue and sponsorship.

The first few games of the current event in the Caribbean have featured two victories by over 200 runs (in one-day games!), plus a tie between two sides patently unworthy of test cricket status.

The tournament is a joke. And that's coming from a long-time cricket lover.

But the football World Cup has undergone expansion and changes of format too. And there have been complaints that the event has been cheapened beyond recognition. Isn't it a similar story?

Not remotely in the same ballpark. Although some weak teams do sneak into the footballing event, they are all at least competitive. And there is a significant turnover in the teams qualifying for each event: no less than thirteen of the teams who made it to the Far East in 2002 failed to get to Germany. By contrast, the line-up for this year's rugby World Cup is practically identical to that of the previous event, in 2003.

There is still only one world game, and still only one real World Cup. And it's played with a round ball, without a six-stitch seam.

Comments:
Mikey, I think calling the (entire) tournament a joke is harsh. No-one, at all, pretends there will be more than one competitive game in each of the four initial group stages. The final eight of the tournament is virtually pre-ordained. But the game between the seeds in each group is important since points carry through to the next stage. Also, games between also-comes are interesting just to see what the state of the game is in other countries (even if a lot of the only decent players are ex-pats or throwawyas from 'proper' cricket playing countries).

The duration of tournaments depends on the public attention span of three to five or six weeks. A well-organised tournament will fill, and schedule, this time-span with an effective serving of watchable games the best way it can.

If you want to have a go at the state of cricket look at chucking. It's becoming endemic.
 
...The duration of tournaments depends on the public attention span of three to five or six weeks....

It's about TV revenue, Mags, nothing more.

Any tournament where the initial stage is a facade designed to lend the tournament a prestige it doesn't deserve is a joke IMO.

...If you want to have a go at the state of cricket look at chucking. It's becoming endemic....

Oh my God, don't even get me STARTED on that. ;-)

That, and the elevation to test status of nonsense teams, and the introduction of 20-20, and the utter blandness and predictability of the one-day game nowadays, are some of the reasons I'm losing interest in cricket. I still enjoy watching good test cricket, but that's about it.
 
Well its obvious that the so called 'World Cup' of cricket is nothing more than a TV and media ratings and money making exercise.

But we know that - so is the real world cup. But its a bit of a joke that the big match ups in the CWC are between teams that we just watched play each other in the regular internationals series. 'Wow cant wait until Australia Take on the Poms...in the world cup....as opposed to the ODI...as opposed to the Test match....as opposed to the pull it outta my backside triangular series.....'

I mean how many times can two teams play each other before it starts to get boring repetitive and dull.
 
I have to agree that the Cricket World Cup has become a bit of a farce. Do they really need to have Bermuda involved?

I used to follow cricket pretty religiously, but these days it's only a passing interest. I agree with you Mikey that things like 20-20 have wrecked the game. I've even been struggling with Tests lately too. And with so much football on all year round - the ACL & Asian Cup plus the usual European stuff - there seems to be little time for anything else...
 
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