‘The myth of the most challenging World Cup and its many victims’

The captains of the 10 teams participating in the ICC World Cup 2019. Photo: ICC

This dates back to the time when the world became aware of the ICC’s shrinking policy ahead of the 2015 World Cup edition. The shrinking has made the World Cup as a 10-team event. Ten years ago the situation wouldn’t be this bad but, ten years ago, there were no Ireland and Afghanistan either. As the first two associate (now test playing) nations, Ireland’s emergence caused more dispute to ICC’s rule. Thanks to the policy, Zimbabwe too won’t feature in the World Cup for the first time since 1983.

Here’s Ireland captain William Porterfield’s take on the issue from the year 2015. “This is the International Cricket Council. If the vision for the game is to shrink it and make as much money for the top few nations as possible, then come out and say that. It’s frustrating when we doing everything that’s asked by the ICC, and then they slap you in the face with decisions like this,” he said.

Coming to today, the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 is well underway with the first four fixtures already concluded. Just to brush up before getting deeper into the argument, here are the results of the completed matches so far:

England won by 104 runs vs South Africa
West Indies won by 7 wickets (with 36.2 overs remaining) vs Pakistan
New Zealand won by 10 wickets (with 33.5 overs remaining) vs Sri Lanka
Australia won by 7 wickets (with 91 balls left) vs Afghanistan

All these results point out one truth: All the hype about this being the “most challenging World Cup” is nothing but a myth.

The entire purpose of shrinking the Cricket World Cup to a 10-team event by the International Cricket Council (ICC) was built around the idea that the competition bar would be higher. In their process of laying down the marker, the world event has been constricted to a closed affair but, at what cost?

Going by the trend of this ongoing World Cup, the first few matches have been completely one-sided, then what’s the point of permitting just the Top 10 ranked teams to participate? In fact, the ICC World Cup qualifiers that was held in 2018 in Zimbabwe witnessed to a much tighter competition. Ireland has been the master of causing upsets, right from 2007 edition of the Cricket World Cup. Zimbabwe’s Brendan Taylor was outstanding in 2015. But this season, fans are deprived of this form of excitement and surprise.

If the World Cup doesn’t meet the hype, it will be just like a another edition of the Champions Trophy.

All glory and no yield- The fate of Ireland Cricket

Ireland Cricket took everyone by surprise after they caused a big upset against Pakistan in the infamous (Bob Woolmer’s death) World Cup 2007 game. They became a regular at the World Cup and received considerable fame in the international arena. Exactly two years ago, ICC bestowed Irish Cricket with their much-anticipated test status along with the new promising team of Afghanistan. They earned a full membership of the ICC but that was reduced when they had to play the qualifiers, which eventually knocked Ireland out from entering into the World Cup competition. Apart from Ireland, Zimbabwe and Scotland too were outstanding in the qualifiers. Ireland’s wicketkeeper-batsman Niall O’Brien made his 100th ODI appearance during the competition.

Meanwhile, after the fate of the three aforementioned teams was sealed last year, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have been on the losing spree in ODIs. Right before the World Cup, Pakistan faced series of back to back defeats against Australia (5-0) and England (4-0). Sri Lanka were barren in New Zealand and in South Africa when it came to limited-overs. They kept shuffling captains and yet no luck. The ICC has been boasting about a tight competition but, on what ground?

No silver lining for Zimbabwe

The most unfortunate story belongs to the Zimbabwean Cricket team, who are missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 1983. On 30 March 2018, the Zimbabwe Cricket board sacked its entire coaching staff along with the then captain Graeme Cremer following an unsuccessful run at the World Cup qualifier campaign.

In World Cup 2015, Zimbabwe’s Brendan Taylor amassed 433 runs and set a new World Cup record. Taylor was the only batsman in the top 10 run-scorers list whose team didn’t make it out of the group stage. That year, he signed a Kolpak deal and left national duties. In the following year, Zimbabwe played their 100th Test in October 2016. The then Zimbabwean captain Graeme Cremer had scored a hundred, his first, in that match.

In November 2016, after being on the receiving end of a series of umpiring errors, Zimbabwe finally got the ‘luxury’ of affording the Decision Review System (DRS) as hosts. The DRS had finally made its highly anticipated debut in Zimbabwe midway during their home series against Sri Lanka. It was certainly a huge milestone for the humble nation.

Yet, all was lost when they lost the World Cup qualifier.

Also read: World Cup: A high-scoring tournament of equals where bowlers will give the edge