Is this the most boring Cricket World Cup to be ever played? YES ! What was supposed to be a super duper blockbuster is turning into a damp squib. Cricket’s marquee event is slowly turning into a boring long tournament. Some may say that it’s too early to pass a judgement but then what is the fun in passing judgement when the tournament is over. Anyone can be an expert after the match.
But for once, you can’t blame the organisers for this. They tried everything they could to make this a huge hit. Whatever could be managed was managed very well, but the factors which are making this tournament a flop are beyond human control. Predictability and rain, these two are primarily the factors which have made people yawn at the half-way of the ICC World Cup.
Let’s begin with rain. No doubt that entire England has received heavy rainfall which was never seen before. Even the locals are surprised at the amount of rainfall they received in the first half of June. There has always been a lot of talk about keep a day reserve for the matches that are washed by rain. But trust me, unless India’s matches are washed out or India’s chances of reaching the semi-finals are dented by rain, no one really cares, not even the ICC. Do you think that a Sri Lanka-Bangladesh tie being washed out is going to give the ICC a headache? But yes, the moment there were talks about rain being a spoilsport in India vs Pakistan match, the schedule and organising of the tournament were questioned.
The second and perhaps the most important factor is the predictability. Sports is all about fun and the fighting spirit. People love when underdogs beat the favourites, when a minnow upsets a powerhouse. People loved to watch Kenya beat West Indies at Pune in the 1996 World Cup. People loved when India beat the West Indies by 43 runs in 1983 World Cup finals at Lord’s. Alas, this tournament has failed to provide any such exciting cricket. All matches are perfectly going according to script. Forget upsets, even the performers are the ones predicted easily. There are no surprises with the leading run makers or the wicket takers. David Warner, Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Kane Williamson, Steven Smith are the names which were supposed to do well and they are doing that.
Only 28 matches have been played out of the scheduled 48, but not even a single contest has gone till the last over or the last wicket. If you look at the points table, you can see that India, New Zealand, England, and Australia have already raced ahead of the lot. The top four teams have virtually been decided. Which team finishes where is the only question lingering in the minds and people are already waiting for the semi-finals to begin.
The 1992 World Cup was the first one to be played with colour clothes and under lights. However ill-fitted jerseys the teams had they are so nostalgic that even during this World Cup more people are seen in the stands with these dresses than the current ones. The format of the 1992 Cricket World Cup was adopted in which all the teams play with each other in the round robin league and top four team played the semi-finals. But what the ICC forgot is that in the year 1992, the cricketing world was not divided into haves and have-nots. All the team were treated equally in that era, and hence the level of cricket of most of the teams was more or less at par with each other. Though the 1992 World Cup did have its favourites, the gap between the teams was not so alarming.
But this is also a sign of worry which should alarm the ICC. What is clearly evident in this World Cup is that India, England and Australia, the richest boards in the cricket world are doing well owing to the resources at their disposal. New Zealand has always been a great fighter and their record at the ICC tournaments has always been great. But the other teams are slowly but alarmingly showing the impact of the disparity shown by the ICC over the years. South African cricket is at the verge of collapse and be ready for some dramatic changes and upheaval in the way cricket is played or administered in this country. Kolpak departures have further made the situation worse for the Proteas. Sri Lankan cricket has also collapsed drastically and no one seems to know what has happened to this country all of a sudden. The issues are complex and no one wants to solve them. ICC, as always, is least bothered. Pakistan cricket is also on verge of collapse. No country wants to go there and play. They have made UAE as their home ground but that’s not helping the young players to pick up the game in Pakistan. From where the next generation of match winners will come is the biggest question.
So more than the boring World Cup, I am concerned about the disparity hat is visible in this World Cup and the points table makes the picture clearer. So although the format was exciting to begin with, it has now brought a scenario where Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, who have been totally out classed by all their opponents, have to play all 9 games, many of which will be dead rubbers.
So what happens now? We wait for the semi-finals and final to be played and pray that India wins the trophy and becomes the World champions and all these questions are swept under the carpet.