In the midst of all the celebrations and all the praises being lavished on the just-concluded World Cup tournament, the ICC on Tuesday sneaked in a controversial decision – rather, confirmed it, to be precise. The hope perhaps was that it could be pushed through without too many eyebrows being raised. It needn’t have bothered. In any case, international cricket is currently a cozy clique so who, save the associates themselves, is going to object to trimming the number of teams in the 2015 World Cup to 10?
The inception of this move perhaps lay in the twin upsets of the 2007 World Cup. What does an unseeded tennis player get when he packs off the top seeds? Overnight superstardom. What does an associate cricket team get when it sends Pakistan home? A sinister scheme to dump it out of future World Cups so that it doesn’t upset the applecart ever again.
Whether the number of teams would have been brought down further to nine if Bangladesh hadn’t already been given full membership (they committed the even bigger crime of beating India, you see), we don’t know. But as Ireland captain William Porterfield put it, upsetting England, battling hard against full members in general and breaking the record for the fastest century in the World Cup, nothing helps when the ICC has already made up its mind.
Come on, it is desperately unconvincing to cite a move towards compactness as the reasoning behind the decision when the over-bloated format of the league stage in the 2011 World Cup was designed by the ICC in all its infinite wisdom. If the ICC was indeed so concerned about having a compact World Cup, designing a month-long league stage defies logic. The four group format of the 2007 World Cup was abandoned to make it as easy as possible for the Test nations, save Bangladesh to qualify. Perhaps, it is hoped that one day West Indies will have turned inept enough for Bangladesh to beat them and make the next round.
Sarcasm aside, am I alone in grasping the blatant hypocrisy of justifying a 10-team World Cup in the name of competitiveness, when a competitive format was cast aside to account for the nadir Indian and Pakistan cricket had hit then? Ironically, given the performance turned in by both teams, such a format may not even have been necessary, if that was what it was meant to achieve.
But why risk that possibility ever again, especially when nobody cares whether the reach of cricket increases and whether associate members have anything at all to look forward to. The bottomline is that cricket is entirely (yes, entirely!) about commerce, and as long as India is doing ok, cricket is ok. If Pakistan sets the stage afire, that’s a bonus. Why should anybody in their right mind be concerned if it’s just the same 10 teams playing the World Cup when it’s India that’s the cynosure of all eyes and the rest are only making up the tournament anyway?
Actually, why have a World Cup at all? Don’t we already have the IPL to get our heart’s content of Indian cricket? Hey, if that happens, someday in the future, remember where you read it! I wouldn’t bet against the BCCI, oops ICC, pushing through such a proposal one day.
And that brings me to India’s role. Recall where the journey that culminated in Indian domination of the economics of cricket began. It began with a snub by the MCC to the then BCCI president. That snub spurred the shifting of the 1987 World Cup to India for the first time. Step by step, India has garnered more and more clout in cricket to more or less become, with regard to cricket, what the USA is to world politics.
Is this the message India wants to send out to the world? That it only usurped power to hoard greedily on whatever was within its reach and seek petty vengeance? Is India, at least in the limited sphere of cricket, not least interested in giving the weak the helping hand it was denied in the past? The rise of India as a mighty force in cricket saw the reach and spread of cricket increase and metamorphose from being largely the concern of three nations.
Does India then not have any responsibility to promote cricket in at least those pockets that are actively interested in it? Duh, no, the prospect of promoting it in China is more mouth watering, I suspect. And cast aside the defensive retort of why other mouths are sealed. As the reigning cricket superpower, India must lead by example.
If India had been booted out of the World Cup after that ignominious Sunil Gavaskar innings (you know which one!), where would we be? Certainly not celebrating a World Cup win, let alone the second, I imagine! It was a World Cup because it gave an upstart something to be proud of. It gave one and all a chance. It was not just a rolling trophy that everybody in a close- knit club will duly get a chance to lay their hands on in turns, but that, the ICC would have us believe, is all there is to future World Cups.
(Madan Mohan, a 25-year old CA from Mumbai, is passionate about writing, music and cricket. Writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake)