Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How To Fix The World Cup

Time for an admission. As much as I have been rooting for the ODI game and the 2011 world cup, it has failed to address the same problems every world cup has had since 1996. I do enjoy watching minnow teams take on the best, but unfortunately the proportion of one-sided games is far too high. Unlike most pundits and journalists though, I wont simply put the boot into the game, I am going to offer a solution.

The Current Format
Two pools of seven, therefore a total of 21 games per pool, and a total of 42 pool matches.

I prefer this format to the super sixes/eights format which added a lot of bloat to the tournament. The point of the super format was to eliminate the minnows politely and focus on the big teams for a longer part of the tournament. Of course this backfired when Kenya and Zimbabwe (2003), and Ireland and Bangladesh (2007) advanced unexpectedly. Not their fault at all.

The problem now is that out of the pools of seven, lets say four are 'top level' teams. They will play 6 games among each other in a pool, and 12 in total. Out of 42 games, having only 12 'big team' games is ridiculous. Having one game a day also means that the tournament runs for nearly a month and a half.

The ICC took action and has reduced the number of teams for the 2015 edition. A typically blunt and poorly thought out answer, treating the symptom but ignoring the cause. Canadian captain Ashish Bagai rightfully pointed out that the associate teams need the world cup event as an aspiration.

Damned if they do. Damned if they don't. © Reuters

My Proposed Format
Too many teams the problem? I disagree, in fact I think there should be more teams. Consider the format I would like to see:

  • Two pools of eight teams
  • Pool A contains the eight highest ranked teams 
  • Pool B contains the next eight (the minnows)
  • The result is 28 games per pool, and 56 in total
  • Every day there is one match from pool B and one from pool A, pool play will end in approx. 30 days
  • The top 6 teams of pool A qualify for the playoffs, along with the top 2 teams from pool B
  • They will participate in a standard quarter finals format which runs for approx 8 days
This format works for me on many levels. It shortens the length of the world cup, greatly increases the number of competitive matches, and also increases exposure to the smaller cricketing nations. There is incentive for every team to play hard as teams will be eliminated from each pool. 

Lets Try It
I am going to play god for a moment. Say that the West Indies and New Zealand play poor cricket and don't make the top six cut, while in pool B Bangladesh and Ireland have strong showings and come out on top. The final pool standings looks something like this:

Pool A
  1. Australia
  2. India
  3. South Africa
  4. Pakistan
  5. Sri Lanka
  6. England
  7. West Indies
  8. New Zealand
Pool B
  1. Bangladesh
  2. Ireland
  3. Zimbabwe
  4. Netherlands
  5. Kenya
  6. Canada
  7. Afghanistan
  8. Scotland
Like most playoff formats, the top team (Australia-A1) will play the bottom team (Ireland-B2), A2 will play B1, and so on. I'd then split them up in such a way the top two teams (Australia A1 and India A2) are on either side of the playoffs draw, and converge to the final. The quarter finals will then become:
  • Australia vs Ireland (A1 vs B2)
  • Pakistan vs Sri Lanka (A4 vs A5)
  • South Africa vs England (A3 vs A6)
  • India vs Bangladesh (A2 vs B1)
You would then (probably) get semi-finals looking like:
  • Australia vs Pakistan
  • India vs South Africa
Alternatively you could have an elimination round where the two bottom placed pool A sides (West Indies, New Zealand) face the pool B winners (Bangladesh, Ireland) to decide the remaining two quarter final spots. 

Your thoughts? Do leave comments.


  1. Like aspects of it but not quite the overall. How about this 16 teams (divided into top 8and bottom 8), 4 pools each with 4 teams(A=1357 best, B=2468 best, C=9,11,13,15 D=10,12,14,16 or similar). Top 2 from each of the top pools go through auto to quarters, top 1 from associate pools go through automatically, Pool A3 and Pool B3 play elimination match against C2 and D2 for remaining spots in quarters. Likely have 6 top teams and 2 minnows in QF action. Tournament is over much quicker as each team only has 3 pool matches then round of 16 for A3,B3,C2,D2, then Quarters. Does that make sense? I think it does!

  2. That does make sense and I like it. The main reason I opted for two big pools is that I liked the 1992 format where every major team played each other. I like the idea that a world cup winner would have beaten all the best teams to get there.

    Also with a four-team pool, a team like England say will play three games and miss out. Seems a bit bare to exit the world cup after three games.

    I would like your format for something like the champions trophy.