The manner in which the ICC Twenty20 World Cup is being staged, it is betraying the very goals for which it was instituted in the first place, global expansion and financial generation for development of teams on the outer edges of the sport

The ICC Twenty20 World Cup can boast of having the most number of cricket teams at any World Cup - twenty. But it would be hard to go beyond that statistic alone to describe the good coming out of this misaligned adventure.

It seems almost everything that could possibly go wrong, is being presented at this edition of the World Cup. From questions marks about the quality of the pitches, to the weather which is short-changing bleary eyed cricket spectators more than halfway across the globe and those paying exorbitant in-stadia, even the quality of the competition leaves something to be desired, which is a sad thing to be observed and stated for an event that should be as spectacular as the World Cup.

While the usual drum beats are being sounded, look beyond it and the din of silence of deafening. At this point it would be hard to explain why the International Cricket Council (ICC) in all its wisdom decided to stage the event in far away USA and the Caribbean, even with the excuse of rotation away from the big three, when if facts are faced, the idea of breaking new ground is merely lip service and notional at this point.

Some of the major attractions when it comes to teams have already exited. The lack of Pakistan and New Zealand is enough to already create a few flutters. Not that it would bother the organizers much as usual suspects Australia and more importantly, India are still in the fray and doing well, one might add.

After all, if bringing new audiences to the stadium and bringing cricket to the USA was the goal, looking around to the spectators, the ICC will be hard pressed to explain why there are as many blue Shirts as there are next to none for any, and most of them worn by sentimental expats who it has to be said, seem the only market worth exploiting apart from those traveling for India to these events.

The fact that the first part of the tournament was shared hosting between USA and the West Indies in a manner of speaking, where the turfs in the USA were brought into question, no less than when India took on Pakistan in arguably the biggest match of the tournament outside of the semi finals and finals, with the ICC admitting that the pitch was sub par, it brings into question what was being achieved in makeshift stadiums – not cricket dedicated – and with dubious pitches that deny teams and spectators a fair minded contest.

And those that would contest that this was a tournament where the associate member nations did shine in the league stages and to an extent as the Super 8’s are getting deeper, without being disrespectful to the associate member nations who are doing everything they can to pour themselves into this tournament – when most have admitted to wanting playing cricket at the highest level and being blocked by the more powerful boards via the ICC which explains the additional accommodation of members at this World Cup - it has to be said, there was no fair contest here either.

As much as it might have been the associate team nations raising their own skill level, must there be punitive measures in place for teams that automatically qualify but fail to show up? It creates close contests but does it reveal that the game itself is being played at a high level World Cup-worthy?

The West Indies have become more mercurial over the years, even on the wane and but for the Twenty20 leagues, it could be argued that many of these West Indian players might have been lost to obscurity or other sport, becoming household names by becoming essentially free agents, called upon to national duty when mutually agreed upon by player and board.

Cash strapped boards have struggled to keep teams afloat, the infrastructure withering through politics and deep seated corruption gone unchecked and their domestic structure wilting under the weight of accommodating Twenty20 leagues on commercial lines rather than with a view to scouting and honing talent. It would explain why when matches look close, one has to only look just below the surface to see that teams that have been pushed are the teams already struggling to gather lost pride or foothold.

It would explain why Pakistan stumbled to the USA in their first match, why South Africa were scraping through in nail biting matches and why the West Indies were checked by relentless England who unleashed Salt on them.

It doesn’t take away all that much from the prestigious tournament or trophy which is still worth the fight. But it is a telling sign, this indifference and persistence with the status quo, and it is exposing the brass tacks and they are not pretty at all.

If it was staging for the sake of staging, which is what it looks like with late schedule releases that are becoming par for the course with the ICC as it waits on big boards to clear their own schedules, pitches and stadium quality inspections that would never pass muster if it were England or Australia touring India before a series, inclement weather which not only robbed the tournament of closer context for points battles but also, brought into question the broadcaster interests if revenue is the bottom line.

Let’s face it. With the more powerful boards protesting in veiled fashion the entry of these associate members to the big league such as the ICC World Test championship – see the opportunities either deferred or cancelled when it involved Ireland and Afghanistan – the associate member nations need every scrap of metal they can find amidst the rubble that is the glut of this format to keep themselves relevant and their commitment in the public eye. That is not an easy thing to do when my cricketers moonlight with cricket being their second job, which is why there has to be a better way to showcase tournaments like these.

The idea of expanding cricket teams globally and bringing global markets to cricket or vice versa, it looks more like hogwash when there are fans, mostly tourists or fanatical expats, who will pay through the roof literally just to be seen and heard. Even more importantly, looking at the composition of most of these teams on the fringes, one sees not unlike the Twenty20 leagues, elements of those discarded such as former cricketers from bigger nations switching citizenship for a spot on the team or expats already raised by their sentimental families to love a sport as alien to the culture of USA as wearing a bindi.

It is hard to explain the bridging of horizons and it only makes amply clear why the ICC and the powerful boards have lobbied hard suddenly for cricket’s entry into the Olympics. It is a total turnaround in stance after the BCCI was one of the first to say that cricket did not need the Olympics to host the Olympics session recently at home when it became obvious about cricket’s foray in Olympics 2028 in Los Angeles. Is this then an exhibition tournament because sadly for the World Cup, the occasional match is giving off that vibe.

There are no new grounds being covered. Maybe crowning a new champion will help keep up the charade, which means not only some of the younger teams will have to play out of their skins but also, that some of the established teams will have to continue to play sub par as this tournament has witnessed. The latter has to be a matter of concern about whether it has to do with infusion of talent, infrastructure, support and merely a case of running the status quo until they are completely run down.

The timing of the sport almost entirely makes it un-adhesive to Indian audiences who couldn’t be bothered to whip up interest, not only after their seasonal binge consumption of the IPL, but also, by the very nature of the competition. Given that internet and broadcast audiences make up the bulk of the revenue, it is hard to see the broadcasters being silent bystanders while some established teams have coasted through, others couldn’t just be bothered to lift their game to add to the pitch woes and unpalatable weather conditions, not to mention the scheduling pitched against the heavy Formula 1 racing and grand slam months and build up and football’s Euro 2024, which has made it abundantly clear which way over fatigued spectators will stray, particularly when the match cannot hold their attention, which is saying something for Twenty20!

Where there was a flourishing England finish to the West Indies in the early morning’s match Indian time, there was also an almost insipid, rather one sided finish to the India versus Afghanistan match late the same evening, where it has to be said, the latter would have been expected to outperform most of the other associate members given their recent elevation. It certainly raises plenty of food for thought.