x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

ICC ducking bouncers on World Cup is not good for cricket

All jokes about Fifa's troubles aside, it took the International Cricket Council only to have its annual conference to remind one that they, too, can come up with scandalously bad decisions.

Looking back now on the recent Fifa congress in Switzerland, when football's ruling group lurched from one crisis to the next humiliation, it had faint echoes of watching English cricket in the early 1990s.

Back then, an England player was guaranteed to be valued highly - so long as he was not actually in the team, suffering the same misfortunes as the rest of them.

In his absence, he could bask in the reflected failure of the woeful national side, and think all would be well if he was in the team. When he did get the call, that is when the problems started.

The same goes for all the other leading governing bodies in the world of sport. While the Fifa debacle was unfolding, they suddenly appeared to be faultless sages and paragons of best practice.

If they were of a cynical bent, they might have been looking upon Fifa and thinking, "We have never been that bad". Or perhaps it was, "I'm glad that is not us".

All it takes is one good ball, though. The International Cricket Council (ICC) required just one annual conference to be reminded this ruling the world malarkey is not as easy as it looks.

Their yearly pow-wow in Hong Kong last week would certainly not have registered a mark on the Fifa scale, but they still came up with some scandalously bad conclusions.

In particular, the U-turn over the make-up of their global events was a shocker. Only three months ago, it was all agreed that the 2015 World Cup would be open only to the 10 nations who have played Test cricket.

Clearly, that was totally wrong. Closing the shop would have been harsh on Ireland, who have provided most of the colour for the past two tournaments.

It would also have inhibited the rise of Afghanistan, the only other side from outside of the Test sphere who will likely be able to seriously challenge the bigger teams in four years time.

However, those sides should have been looking forward to earning their place - via a qualifying competition - in a shorter, more entertaining version of the World Cup with less teams and far fewer matches.

To continue on with the same format is stupid. True, the 2011 event was an improvement on the previous one.

But if the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies is ever to be regarded as a standard by which to measure a showpiece tournament, the game is doomed.

One victory can hide a multitude of ills. India's success in the World Cup final in Mumbai certainly stoked the biggest party in sport thus far this year.

Apparently, it also suddenly rendered cricket's whole, drawn out flagship competition as "highly successful", according to the ICC.

MS Dhoni's glorious exclamation mark, when he hit the winning six for the Indians, was the varnish which would allow the organisers to deem their tournament as being "universally acclaimed".

It was neither, but the fact the biggest matches were played in front of fervent crowds makes it easy to say it was.

So the next one will again be bloated, and in Australia and New Zealand the mismatches involving the little teams will be harder to hide.

The biggest problem with the decision to remain with 14 teams was the compromise.

While the governing body appeared to give with one had, by guaranteeing extra space for the developing nations in the 50 over flagship, it took away with the other, by cutting the World Twenty20 back from the proposed 16 teams to 12.

So the Associates find their wings clipped again. Sad as it is for them, the World Twenty20 remains the best multi-nation tournament in cricket.

Because, after all, a quick tournament is a good tournament.

 

pradley@thenational.ae

 

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