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A faulty system

By Barry Richards
March 06, 2003 20:55 IST
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As expected, the television and newspapers are full of recriminations over South Africa's exit. The events of the last week have ensured one thing -- smooth sailing for India right till the semi-finals. I have no quarrel with India's good fortune. They have played well enough to deserve it, but am a little concerned with a system that might allow a team that has won just one game against a big side, right through to the semi-finals. Kenya was walloped by the West Indies and South Africa, but a forfeit from the Kiwis and a win against Sri Lanka has got them this far. If that takes them into the final four, there's something wrong somewhere.

There is talk that the Duckworth-Lewis System will now be flashed on electronic scoreboards wherever possible so that confusion does not prevail like it did last Sunday. Once again, like in 1992, we might see a rain rule being reviewed, but only after South Africa have suffered. I still cannot figure out why the Duckworth-Lewis chart gives scores to tie rather than scores to win, pretty confusing. However, if Sri Lanka got their mathematics right, there was no reason why South Africa could not.

Coming back to the tournament format, ideally, we should have a system where all the sides play each other. The system was tried in 1992, and I am not sure why it was not persisted with. This system ensured that the best and most consistent sides emerge to the top, and then they play the semis and the finals. It is amazing to think that four of the top eight Test-playing teams are not in the fray anymore in this World Cup. This means cricket is the biggest victim of a faulty system.

Ideally, the World Cup should involve ten countries, the nine regular ones with Bangladesh joining non-Test playing countries for a qualifier from which one team comes through. This will ensure that the lesser teams get some chance, and, more importantly, guarantees the top teams will be on show most of the time. In this World Cup, there were some really boring games involving the minnows right from the third day till the last day of the Super Sixes. In their quest to globalise the game, the ICC have lost sight of the initial purpose of the World Cup, to highlight the best cricket of that era before the world.

The ICC seems to think that the more teams there are in the World Cup, the grander the tournament will be. For the last 11 years we've seen the number of teams get bigger, and now the entire tournament has become too unwieldy and is cracking under its own weight.

In fact, the entire Super Sixes has a hollow feel to it. India only have to beat Kenya to move into the last four, while Sri Lanka just have to beat Zimbabwe. Australia are already there, and should New Zealand not win two of their three games, Kenya will go through.

I think New Zealand will be up for this challenge as they play best when they play under pressure. Their bowlers are the only worry as their seamers are pretty ineffective unless conditions are overcast.

Australia, who are already through to the semifinals, were dealt another blow by the injury to Jason Gillespie. I think they will be able to cover for him, especially after Andy Bichel's seven-wicket haul against England. However, they might just miss Gillespie's whippy action and sharp bowling if they run into India. Bichel is the kind of bowler who Indians can handle with more ease than Gillespie.


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Barry Richards