Why a 10-Team World Cup may not be such a bad idea
Unless you are living under a huge rock, you would have heard that the ICC has plans to cull the number of teams in the World Cup from 14 to 10.
ICC likely to go ahead with 10-team World Cup
ICC’s CEO Dave Richardson talks of “ensuring that there is more competition amongst teams at the highest level”. According to him, ”If we get a 10-team World Cup, all 10 teams must be capable of winning the tournament”. I for one believe all this is hogwash. Given how World Cricket’s finances are at the moment, it is a broadcaster’s wet dream when you have more assured India matches. With this new format, the broadcasters will have 9 assured India matches – 3 more than in the current World Cup.
Also, with the Big 3 (India, England and Australia) now getting a Lion’s share of the revenue, they would want to ensure more of it for themselves. More India, England, Australia games mean more broadcasting revenue, gate receipts, and sponsorships for the ICC.
The latest broadcast agreement with Star is confidential, and we don’t even know for what price Star got the rights for the next cycle of the ICC events (2015 to 2023). It could be that there are clauses in that agreement that ICC has assured 9 India games to Star in the next two World Cups or offer more $$ to ICC if that happens.
Let teams qualify on merit
Given the amount of money at stake it would be utopian and foolish to assume that the Big 3 aka the ICC will give in despite the impressive shows by the minnows in the ongoing World Cup and continue with the same format. I am all for a 10-team tournament if every team qualifies for it based on merit and nothing else. This can be achieved by rewarding teams that have performed well in the current World Cup or on the basis of the ICC ODI rankings (as per a cut-off date).
Option 1: Performance at the current World Cup:
All semi-finalists qualify for the next World Cup
2 teams that couldn‘t qualify for the semis and have maximum points after group stages qualify.
Option 2: ICC ODI rankings at a cut-off date - Say 31st December 2017 for 2019 WC
Top 6 ranked teams qualify for the next World Cup.
That leaves us with 4 spots remaining. For the 4 spots, I propose a qualifying playoffs involving 8 teams to decide the final 4 spots. All Test teams get a direct entry into the qualifying tournament.
Depending on the number of spots left for the non-Test playing nations, which could range from 0 to 4 (based on how many non-Test playing nations directly qualify for the next World Cup), the World Cricket League Championship will be conducted and teams will play the playoffs.
Seeds for the Qualifying Playoffs will be as per the ICC ODI rankings. For teams not in the rankings, their position in the World Cricket Championship will be used.
Teams will play a best of 5-ODI series: First two will be hosted in the higher ranked team’s country and next two in the lower ranked Team’s country. 5th game, if needed, will be played in the country that has a better NRR after 4 games between the two teams. There will be 4 such playoffs and winners of these playoffs will qualify for the World Cup.
If we select teams as per Option 2 suggested above and using current ODI team rankings playoffs line up would be as follows.
Pakistan vs UAE
West indies vs Scotland
Bangladesh vs Afghanistan
Zimbabwe vs Ireland
Seems fair, doesn’t it? This way one can reward performance and ensure no one gets a free qualification pass to the World Cup. ICC can also earn broadcasting, sponsorship revenue from these playoffs, and it gives the non-Test playing nations a chance to qualify for the World Cup as well.
There might be a 0.01% possibility that one of India, England (highest chance) and Australia fail to qualify for the next World Cup, so, as a compromise, these three teams can be given an assured spot and 7 spots can be on the basis of performance.
I am suggesting a workable solution to the issue at hand rather than living in a utopian world wanting the ICC, especially the Big 3, to turn down money that they like so much.