Colin Bryden

Too much is too bad

2011-02-16 10:13
Sport24 columnist Colin Bryden (File)
Colin Bryden

One-day cricket, once regarded as the most exciting development in the game since willow bats, now sits uncomfortably between the slow-boiling drama of Test cricket and the instant appeal of the Twenty20 version.
The Cricket World Cup should be the ideal showcase for the 50-overs game but despite (or perhaps partly because of) the prolonged build-up I find it difficult to work up more than moderate enthusiasm for the stretched-out version about to start in Asia.
There are too many matches played over too long a period. To me, it is a contrived formula designed for the seemingly insatiable demands of Indian television. There will be 30 consecutive days of round robin matches which will culminate with eight teams qualifying for the quarter-finals.
There are 14 teams, split into two sections, but four - Canada, Kenya, Ireland and the Netherlands – are no-hopers, while Zimbabwe have at best an outside chance of reaching the quarter-finals. That effectively means that a month of matches is designed to decide which eight out of nine realistic contenders go through.
Australia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and New Zealand should go through from Group A unless Zimbabwe play above themselves.
The fact that Bangladesh will play all their pool matches at home might make Group B slightly more exciting but India, South Africa and England should get through, with the West Indies possibly being vulnerable. A South African win over West Indies in their opening match – five long days after the tournament gets under way – will be useful insurance for the Proteas against an unlikely early return.
The format reminds me of the 1996 World Cup, shared between India and Pakistan, where South Africa played brilliantly in a prolonged round robin phase, only to lose in the quarter-finals to the West Indies, who had lost to Kenya not many days earlier.
If anything, the format is worse than that for the largely boring 2003 World Cup in the West Indies when there were four groups of three, with two teams going through from each group to a Super Six stage.
The fact that India and Pakistan both failed to get past the first stage must have dealt a huge blow to the television ratings. That won’t happen this time – but the price is a heavy one for cricket’s credibility and the marketing of the game outside India.
The real tournament only starts on March 23 when the first quarter-final is played.

Colin Bryden is a former cricket correspondent of the Sunday Times and current editor of the Mutual & Federal South African Cricket Annual.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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