Tonight, just 2 hours from my writing, the World Cup of 2019 will begin, the most anticipated World Cup since it all began, and perhaps since the 1983 World Cup changed India from a hockey-loving nation to a cricket-loving country, and thereafter cricket, and the World Cup that is its epitome, changed forever. The 2019 World Cup promises to be something special.
The 2019 edition will act as the first ever World Cup to not feature a single solitary associate team. The inclusion of associate countries in cricket’s biggest stage has always been controversial, with opinions varied between wanting a token one or two to wanting half of all participants to be associates, and everything in between. For the 2019 edition, not only are associate teams effectively banned, but only 10 of the 12 test teams are participating. Neither Zimbabwe or Ireland, both having earned their test status, are allowed to participate. This is extraordinarily significant.
According to the ICC and the 2019 World Cup organisers, a 10 team World Cup is the way of the future. They claim that the 1992 World Cup was the best World Cup, but was it really?
If you are from Pakistan, you’d be agreeable, but not everyone is from that country. While Pakistan is one of the most cricket-obsessed nation in the world, their population is a long way from India, and both Australia and England boast greater cricketing traditions. 5 of the 11 World Cups played thus far have gone Australia’s way, also the most winning test nation, while England is where cricket began. To appease Pakistan seems foolish and unnecessary.
This World Cup acts essentially as a debate as to whether cricket should be elitist or alternatively if it ought to expand its reach. Rugby, in comparison, has a much smaller fanbase yet has a whopping 24 teams in its World Cup, while the larger soccer World Cup has as many as 48 teams. Why be as few as 10? According to the fan base, we should be seeing in the order of 24 to 30 teams, not 10. And yet they want close matches.
It remains to be seen how well it will work. There are no groups, instead having a round-robin competition, just as they had in 1992. But was 1992 really as good as all that?
In 1992, the reigning champions and co-hosts Australia missed the semi-finals, while South Africa, fresh from the end of apartheid, made the semi-finals, in spite of being nowhere near good enough, only to be knocked out at the semi-final stage, amidst controversy about the “highest scoring overs” run rate reduction rule. South Africa would have lost regardless of the system used, and realistically didn’t deserve to have made it that far, but it started the whole choking thing.
The best team in 1992 was England, head and shoulders above the rest. New Zealand made it to the semis due to unfair amounts of home ground advantage, in spite of being only co-hosts, while South Africa got there due to the surprise factor. Pakistan shouldn’t have been there either, but in a tussle between Australia and West Indies for the final semi-final position, instead Pakistan got some luck go their way and got there.
1992 saw the wrong team win. Pakistan didn’t deserve it, and yet they got there. England should have been the winners, yet were robbed of it by a poorly designed system.
So in 2019, if we were to see a repeat, the wrong team will win, there will be controversies were good teams are knocked out unfairly, and the team that showed that they were the best by a very long way, in 1992 England, will lose the final.
1992 was a long way from the best World Cup, and yet it is the one we are highlighting. We make it sound good but in reality it was terrible.
Five Fearless Predictions:
(1) The wrong team will win
Whoever it is, it will be the wrong team in someone’s eye. If it is England, people will say that they got it due to unfair home advantage. If it is India, they bought it. If it is Australia, it’s unfair due to the bans. If it is South Africa, it will be due to the choking tag leaving. If it is anyone else, it will be a joke. You just can’t win.
(2) It won’t help cricket at all
Even if every single match is close, which it is unlikely to be, it will be a tired system, too many teams for a round robin.
(3) The obsession with 500 is bad
World Cups tend to have lower scores and closer matches, so 500 seems really unlikely. A team may score 489 and lose the tournament because of it. Another team may be all out for 200 off 25 overs chasing the total and lose the tournament because of it. Obsession with a score is bad.
(4) This isn’t good
While World Cups undoubtedly are good, whichever form they are in, this form is bad. It isn’t good at all. Super 6s were good. Super 8s meh. Groups are definitely good. In the 2015 World Cup they seemed to have the perfect system of 14 teams, the right balance between top teams and encouraging the associates, quarter finals instead of Super 6s or Super 8s, but now, just as it worked perfectly, they’ve abandoned it.
(5) We’ll love it just the same
We don’t want a 10 team World Cup and yet we’ve got it, and, as much as we wish we didn’t love it, we’ll still love it. The winner, whoever it may be, will be loved, and their team will be excited by it. The matches will inspire, the performances excite, and everything about it will be wonderful, much as we hate that we love it.