ICC World Cup 2019: A Cup Without the World as New Format Helps Line Pocket of Wealthiest Nations
The 2019 edition of the Cricket World Cup will have only 10 teams vying for the most prized trophy in the gentlemen’s game. The rest of the world can watch.
File photo of the Indian Cricket team (Image: Twitter)
Cricket was a colonial exercise for the British. A tool for the empire to expand 'civilisation'. But that expansion of the game has come to an abrupt halt, with the number of teams coming down from previous editions.
The world, as they say, can wait.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) will stage the World Cup in England and Wales with the final of the grand tournament to be held at the ‘home of cricket’ – The Lords ground in London.
Only 10 teams - the best in the world – are participating at the 2019 ICC World Cup, with India, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh securing their berths with their top eight ODI ranking. England as the host nation was assured of a berth.
A qualifying tournament was set up between 10 (other) teams, from which West Indies and Afghanistan booked the final two places in the tournament roster.
Teams like Ireland, The Netherlands, Scotland, UAE and Zimbabwe, who have featured in several World Cups previously, and even pulled off some stunning upsets, will have to wait for four years for the next turn and watch from the sidelines this time around.
The inaugural edition in 1975 had a total of eight teams participating, with one more joining at the 1992 edition, the last tournament to follow the round-robin format that is being used this time.
In the next edition four years later, four more teams joined the fray, as the number of teams participating went up to 14 in 2003. In 2007, 16 teams took part – the highest in the tournament’s history.
In that edition, the unthinkable happened: India and Pakistan were knocked out in the group stages, and hence, the viewership took a hit.
Changes were mooted after that. The Cricket World Cup is arguably the only tournament of the pinnacle of an ‘international’ sport that has cut down on the number of participants, when every other World Cup is expanding or at least trying.
FIFA, for instance, wants to hold a 48-team Football World Cup in 2026 as it looks to popularise the game further in more countries. Cricket, which is in a greater need of this, has taken the opposite decision and has made the top tournament a more closed affair.
So why the change?
India is the biggest market for cricket and sponsors want eyeballs. Is it any good that they stop watching halfway through the tournament (on the occasion that their team is knocked out early) or play only a handful number of matches.
The new round-robin format would ensure that the top teams play at least nine matches each and fans remained glued to their television sets.
A result surely to serve the interest of the big three (India, Australia and England – who already pocket most of the revenue generated by the ICC), who will surely get the most monetary profit from the 10-team format.
What will be missing is the upset win. Remember, Bangladesh beating India or Ireland knocking out Pakistan at the 2007 World Cup, or Kenya beating the West Indies in Pune at the 1996 edition. All that is unlikely to happen.
On the flip-side there will be more competitive games, with every game counting more in the final standings in round robin format tournament. Competitive matches mean more interest from the casual fan and hence more viewership, which in turn will help in selling the quadrennial meet to advertisers in the coming editions.
As a matter of fact, the edition to be held in India 2023 will also be a 10-team competition. The world, as they say, can wait.
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