PARTAB RAMCHAND | 28 MAY, 2019
Is the World Cup Cricket’s Summit? Not Really
Starts in England on Thursday
Cricket’s summit meeting gets underway in England on Thursday in an atmosphere charged with tension and excitement as the clashing temperaments and styles of ten countries explode in the high octane contest for this sport’s greatest prize – the World Cup.
But wait. Can it be hailed as a summit? And can it really be called the World Cup?
After all the ten countries represent the lowest number of entries for the ICC’s showpiece event since 1992 when nine teams dueled for the trophy. Since then in its bid to expand the sport globally the ICC have raised the number of teams from 12 to 14 to 16 and back to 14 for the last event held in Australia and New Zealand.
But can ten countries be truly representative of the world? And even of these ten only eight gained automatic entry thanks to their rankings. Two more had to come through the qualifying event and West Indies and Afghanistan made the grade.
Even Test nations like Zimbabwe and Ireland are not taking part in the competition the former for the first time in 36 years and the latter for the first time in 12. Also there is no place for recent competitors like Scotland, Holland, Canada or Kenya, who were surprise semifinalists in 2003.
Yes, there is no denying that in many cases the associate members have been fodder for the big guns. There were too many hopelessly lop sided encounters which was one reason why the ICC restricted the number of participating teams.
The nadir is probably Sri Lanka crushing Canada in 2003 winning by nine wickets after dismissing the opponents for 36 – the lowest total in ODI history – and then rushing to victory in 4.4 overs The whole match lasted just over two hours – just 23.2 overs were bowled – making it comfortably the shortest in World Cup history.
But on the other hand the lightweights have provided some of the most dramatic moments in World Cup history. Can one forget Zimbabwe defeating Australia in 1983, Zimbabwe shocking England in 1992, Kenya stunning West Indies in 1996, Bangladesh surprising Pakistan and Zimbabwe pulling the rug from under South Africa’s feet in 1999, Kenya stopping Sri Lanka in 2003, Ireland shocking Pakistan and Bangladesh stunning India in 2007, defeats that sent the sub continental giants crashing out in the preliminary stage. Ireland beating England in 2011 was also straight out of the fiction books while Afghanistan putting it over Scotland in 2015 was nothing short of a dream coming true.
Unexpected results are what sport is all about. Moreover at a time when FIFA is planning to add 16 extra teams to the soccer World Cup, the Rugby World Cup wants to add four and the Olympics have introduced five new sports reducing numbers in cricket’s mega event is contrary to administrative mantras about developing the game. Perhaps cricket is not as much a global sport like football but then that is all the more reason for it to spread its wings.