Sydney, Feb 12: Legendary players Sunil Gavaskar and VVS Laxman today lambasted the format of the upcoming Cricket World Cup, saying that the inclusion of the ICC Associate members could reduce the intensity of competition. (Day 1 schedule, squads, TV times)
Gavaskar and Laxman said making the showpiece event a 14-team affair with the inclusion of the likes of Afghanistan and Scotland would significantly diminish the level of competition in the league stage.
They said the format also does not offer competitive games till the quarterfinal stage. Stating that the World Cup should be competed among 10 teams only, Gavaskar said, "The top eight teams according to the ICC rankings should automatically qualify. (10 facts about India-Pakistan clash)
The last two berths should be fought between the other teams a year before the main event. And then 10 top teams playing against each other is the best way to go about it."
The former India skipper said while upsets are always on the cards, "stage fright" could be counterproductive for minnows, who are developing their international competency.
"Although it can be a good opportunity for the "minnows" to be there on the big stage, but how much does that help, I don't know. You can actually lose badly because of the pressure of playing on the big stage and that doesn't get you anywhere," Gavaskar told NDTV.
"Instead there should be a consistent development programme where you get to play the big teams, rather than having a one-off World Cup competition," he explained.
Laxman agreed with Gavaskar and said, "You want each and every game to be competitive. 10 best teams competing against each other would have made the league stage also interesting."
"In a high-profile tournament like World Cup there will be a lot of viewers, a lot of spectators at the ground who come from around the world to watch competitive games. You want each and every game to be competitive. It is never good to have easy league stage for the top teams," the former India batsman said.
"Yes, you have to encourage the Associate members. I think the 1992 format (with nine teams) was excellent. Probably 10 teams would be ideal and you can play against all of them and qualify for the knockout stage," he added.
'It would be tough for the batsmen and will help the bowlers'
Former Australian captain Ian Chappell also endorsed the same view.
"I like the idea of the World Cup being the best teams, you're going to have the occasional blow out where one team gets beaten quite comfortably but I don't think it does the game a lot of good to have a really one-sided contest," Chappell said.
"I think there should be a maximum of 10 teams and they all must play against one another. In this (current) format, you can straight away pick the quarterfinalists. That's not good," he added.
Talking about the new ODI rules that would be in place during the World Cup, Laxman said the sub-continental teams might find it difficult to cope with it considering their reliance on spinners.
"It would be tough for the batsmen and will help the bowlers. It might be tougher for the sub-continent teams who rely on spinners. But it would be good to see seam bowlers making a mark," said Laxman.
Gavaskar added: "The bowlers generally have a hard time and except when they are getting assistance from the surface, it becomes a little unfair on them. The contest must be even stevens."
Suggesting some changes that could be incorporated in the ODI format, Chappell said the regular bowlers could be given an extended run of 12-13 overs instead of the current 10-over limit.
"The captain must use his imagination and give his better bowlers a chance to bowl for at least 12 overs. Better bowlers who are bowling well can attack more and they should be allowed to keep going for some more time instead of just limited 10 overs," said Chappell.
Laxman agreed with Chappell, saying: "Two bowlers should be allowed for at least 12 overs. Under the current rule, it gets even tougher for the captain to be innovative and imaginative. Having the option of giving the 2-3 regular bowlers more overs to bowl gives a captain also more options."