The ICC Cricket World Cup is gradually turning into a headache for an average lover of the game. The series of extremely one-sided matches in the tournament (South Africa beating Ireland by 201 runs or Australia beating Afghanistan by 275 runs) might keep the record-keepers happy everyday but for those who want an even game of cricket, these matches or rather mis-matches are a big disappointment.
The minnows are killing World Cup: They are anyhow not seen after the tournament
Why do we need these minnows in the cricket World Cup? Just to make the World Cup really a global affair and business-friendly? But aren't we actually killing the game's future by staging such meaningless mismatches between, say, Australia and Afghanistan? When even big teams like the West Indies and England are being walloped today by frontline teams, to expect the minnows make the World Cup really competitive is absolute non-sense.
Those cricket experts who are opposing the ICC's decision to make the World Cup a 10-team affair in 2019 must give this poor state of affairs a rethinking. If they want the World Cup to continue as it is hoping that this gives the minnows an opportunity to excel, they are completely mistaken.
Men versus boys: WC of mismatches
The World Cup is not the stage to grow, it is the stage for the grown-ups. Kenya had made the semi-finals of the 2003 edition. They had beaten Test-playing sides like Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. But that semi-final against India was the last time they could be seen on the world stage. What's the point?
To understand the poor thinking behind the cricket World Cup, let's have a look at the Fifa World Cup. The format of the football World Cup has also been expanded but we hardly see a Brazil or a Germany annihilating low-ranked teams with a 10-0 or 20-0 scoreline. The gap between the top and the lesser teams is certainly not as wide as it is in cricket.
Why Fifa WC is better than the ICC World Cup: 2 reasons
There are two reasons why the football World Cup is not as awful as the cricket one.
Difference 1: In Fifa WC: Minnows qualify by playing the top teams that also qualify
First, the qualifiers of the football World Cup do not land in the tournament from Mars. The teams have to make through to the top by rubbing shoulders with the top teams, including the former and current champions, in the qualifying rounds.
In ICC WC: Minnows land in WC after beating some non-existent teams
In cricket, that is not the case. The minnows that come to play the quadrennial tournament get the opportunity by defeating some non-existent teams and are suddenly exposed before the top teams. Why can't the top teams also go through the qualifying rounds to play for the World Cup in cricket too?
Given their loads of experience, they will certainly be not under-confident to go through the qualifying rounds. But one suspects the stakes are too high in making the full members play the qualifying rounds for the cricket World Cup. Afterall, not many play the game of cricket with authority, unlike in the footballing world.
WC cricket produces only records, not impact
But forcing to unite the developed and developing worlds of cricket at the World Cup is actually producing zero result. The overall standard of cricket has fallen steadily across the globe and today, cricket is more identified by big hitting.
Even seasoned teams like West Indies and England are struggling at WC, what to expect from minnows?
Even the bowling standards of seasoned teams like the West Indies and England have reached the nadir as we have seen in this World Cup. While the successors of the Holdings, Garners and Marshalls are conceding over 400 runs against South Africa, the English bowlers are failing to defend a 300+ score and losing by 9 wickets against Sri Lanka? And we expect that more minnows will make the World Cup more attractive?
Difference 2: Cricket needs skills more than anything else
This brings us to the second point of difference between the football and cricket World Cups. And that is the sport itself. Football is more of a mass body-contact game and even teams with power and less skills can make a mark at the highest stage.
We have seen a number of African sides have surprised the football world at the World Cups, not because they were very skilled but because they had the stamina and the determination to fight along.
But we have also seen players like a Roger Milla and Didier Drogba coming up from those less-known sides and how they have encouraged successive generations to pursue the game at the highest level by undergoing more exposure. In cricket, skills matter more than anything else and lesser teams just don't have the steam in them to run through top sides.
A century, an upset, a 300: That's what makes the ICC World Cup attractive?
A century can be seen here and there while a match or two between minnows can go down to the wire. An upset can be witnessed every two World Cups but to expect that the norms of the cricketing world will be rewritten by the debutants by means of revolutionary results is absurd.
In Fifa WC, new teams play top teams to qualify, in ICC WC, they land from Mars
In football World Cups too, the lesser teams take years to make an advancement (like Costa Rica did in the 2014 edition) but that needs frequent participation and exposure in the competitive world. Or otherwise, the Fifa World Cup remains confined within four to five winners every four years as is the ICC World Cup.
But cricket has far too less strong sides to make the World Cup look really a World Cup. The cup looks more of an get-together to rewrite records.
Not good for the game's future.