Sunday, April 29, 2007

There's only one thing you have to remember when you organise a world cup

I promised you another rant, and I don't make promises I can't keep.

The Cricket World Cup finished yesterday. Australia won, with arguably the greatest one-day squad in the history of the game. The whole tournament should have been spectacular.

It wasn't.

I've read a lot of the comment on why this World Cup 'didn't quite work', and listened to hours of pundit-banter (ex-player-whingeing?). Recurring theories include:

- alienation of the local population through high ticket prices, not helped by the fact that the home team played poorly
- over-officious restrictions on musical instruments in the crowd, or even shirts carrying logos of the sponsors' rivals
- scheduling a reserve day for every game spread the competition out to cover roughly a million weeks
- too many 'minnow' nations being in the competition (non Test-playing countries, like Holland, Ireland, Bermuda etc)

I'm sure the first three didn't help, so I won't argue with them. But that last point - shocking.

The minnow nations MAKE the World Cup. I love watching teams in weird and wonderful colours made up of players who have taken time off work as plumbers, builders and accountants to represent their countries against the world's greats.

And sometimes they win. I love that even more. I think my favourite World Cup moment ever was Ireland's St. Patrick's Day victory over Pakistan.

So please - leave the minnow nations alone, unless you want to change the name of the competition to the Cricket Certain-Countries-Only Cup.

The real problem with the Cricket World Cup is the format. Which genius said, I know, let's have a group stage just like they do in the football world cup, but then instead of going into the exciting knock-out bit, we'll just put all of the teams that come first and second in their group into... um... ONE BIGGER GROUP!?

You can't have a cup where the only knock-out stage is the semi-final.

You can't have a cup where every team plays every other team. Most of those games will be irrelevant. They will be dead matches, and they will be dull.

You can't have a world cup where you need a calculator to work out who's going to end up in the semi-final.

Any world cup should go like this: loads and loads of sides, divided into groups of four, play each other in a struggle to secure the first two places in their group.

If you don't qualify, you go home.

The qualifiers go into a knock-out competition. If you lose a game, you go home. The team that doesn't lose a game wins.

It's exciting, it's short, it's easy to follow. Teams have to play well every game, there will be upsets and close-shaves, there will be top teams scraping through against 'minnows', only to come good against the greats.

That's a world cup.

So if you're organising a world cup any time soon, remember this simple rule:

It's only a world cup if you can put it on a wall-chart.

No comments: