With minor teams failing to make a fight of it, is it time to trim the World T20 field?
Over a year ago, there was hue and cry over the International Cricket Council’s decision to trim the One-day World Cup from 14 to ten teams to reduce the meaningless matches.
The Associate teams, who were in danger of being left out, strongly protested and eventually the global governing body for the game rescinded that decision. That means the next edition in 2015 will again have 14 teams, including four Associates.
While the inclusion of Associates scores high on sentiment, they are also result in boring, one-sided clashes in the early stages of the tournament. Unlike say a surprise qualifier for the football World Cup final, cricketing minnows have found it really difficult to come anywhere near the established powers. Although globalisation of the game is wonderful, lopsided contest hurt where it matters most in sport these days – in terms of fans flocking to the matches, television viewership and advertisements.
One would have thought the situation would be better in the shortest of formats. But the story so far at the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka has showed that the minor teams, for all their enthusiasm, have clearly failed to match the big guns in skill and execution of tactics. In short, the gulf in class is only too evident. Performances by teams like Afghanistan are nothing short of heroic coming from a war-ravaged nation. For Ireland, who see even the modest talent they raise gravitate towards big brother England – Eoin Morgan for example – it would be unfair if they don’t get an opportunity to rub shoulders with the stalwarts of the game.
However, the World Twenty20 is and should not be the place for sentiments. The Associates should hone their skills at a lower level or in bilateral events. It would make sense to put in place a qualifying tournament and thus make the tournament a lean affair to maintain the interest throughout. Even the 12-team event we see is due to the ICC reducing the number by four, but a maximum of 10 teams, with two qualifiers, would be a perfect fit.
With the ICC planning to reduce the 2019 ODI World Cup to a 10-team affair – only the top eight will directly qualify – there is no reason why the World T20 should not be a snappy affair.