The current Cricket World Cup 2011 goes on for 42 days. The previous edition of the World Cup (in 2007) went on for 42 days. It was so long that I asked my friends in 2008 if the cricket World Cup 2007 had concluded! The CEO of the ICC at that time was Malcolm Speed. I can say that certainty that I would not associate his name (Speed) with the time it took for the World Cup he organised under his watch to conclude! The World Cup takes way too much time in its current format.
In direct contrast, the Soccer/Football World Cup lasted exactly 25 match-days! And the Soccer World Cup features 32 teams, as against 14 teams in the Cricket World Cup! Notwithstanding the fact that ODIs take longer to complete than soccer games, in my view, the cricket World Cup just goes on and on needlessly!
The ICC’s reaction to criticism of the duration has been to suggest a trimming of the competition down to 10 teams. I am not sure that that is the way to go. We then get a situation where we deprive growth in the game.
We also get deprived of romantic situations like last night when the Irish underdog beat the mighty English! Agreed, such thrashings do not come often and that more often than not, we see the “minnows” (Oh boy, I hate that word so much!) get thrashed by the big teams. However, there is a certain romance surrounding Burton Albion drawing with Manchester United in the FA Cup in 2005-06! The FA Cup provides opportunities for the underdog to have its day in the lights.
Similarly, the World Cup should also provide space for the smaller teams to try and flex their muscles against the bigger teams.
During the rest of the intervening period between World Cups, my proposal (one that was initiated by Dileep Premachandran, I believe) is that smaller team are featured in domestic competitions. For example, there is no reason why Afghanistan (a fast improving team) and UAE should not play in the Ranji Trophy. Similarly, Ireland, Scotland and Netherlands should be allowed to field teams in the England County Championships. The USA team should play in the Carrib Beer Cup in West Indies.
The question then is whether the World Cup duration can be shortened while not sacrificing participation. At 42 days, as I said in my opener, the Cricket World Cup is way too long.
It can be trimmed. With 14 teams split in two “divisions”, it is possible to complete the World Cup in precisely 28 days! I have named the teams a1-a7 and b1-b7. According to the schedule below, the entire competition can be concluded from day-1 (d1) to day-28 (d28) with four rest days (d20, d23, d24 and d26).
In other words, the entire competition can start on a Sunday and will be completed precisely 4 weeks later on a Saturday! I have assumed that each weekday will feature 2 games and weekends will feature 3 games. This is very possible! Each team will have (on average) 2 days between successive games in the league stage.
Mind you, the above tables represent merely one permutation of many plausible solutions. I worked it out merely to illustrate the point rather than providing a direct implementable solution.
Now why is it not possible for the ICC to adopt such a schema or template for the World Cup. If I can come with a schedule like this in half an hour of mucking around, surely the boffins that get paid loads of dosh to run cricket can do better than that!
-Mohan (@mohank on Twitter)