Why football’s big event beats the ICC World Cup with 25 overs to spare


February 14, 2015

The Cricket World Cup is back – the tournament where teams who have been playing among themselves since forever will play among themselves, again. The tournament has 18 fewer teams than the FIFA World Cup but is still somehow almost two weeks longer.

February 14, 2015

The Cricket World Cup is back – the tournament where teams who have been playing among themselves since forever will play among themselves, again. The tournament has 18 fewer teams than the FIFA World Cup but is still somehow almost two weeks longer.

Hopefully you've enjoyed it's utterly inexplicable opening ceremony and have been pulled into the whirlpool of opinions and quotes and headlines featuring every cricketer you've ever heard of – you've bought the India jersey for Rs 4995 – you've seen #WontGiveItBack written everywhere – from newspaper front pages to your Twitter and Facebook timelines. You're pumped up, ready for this cricketing extravaganza because we don't have enough cricket in the year already. Right?

But let's be honest. The football World Cup trumps Cricket's biggest tournament with 25 overs to spare. Let me break it down for you:

The novelty factor: In the last four years India have played Pakistan in a competitive fixture seven times; they've played Australia 13 times; South Africa have played New Zealand 10 times while England have played arch-rivals Australia 17 times.

Meanwhile, football rivals England and Argentina last played a competitive fixture in 2002. Before that, they played in 1998. The Netherlands have played Germany twice over the last 11 years and America have played Mexico thrice over the last four years.

The football World Cup offers the possibility of rare games. The World Cup offers the possibility of India playing Sri Lanka for the 23rd time over the last four years.

Length of tournament and matches: The ICC World Cup starts on 15 February and goes on till 29 March – a 44 day stretch. Each game takes roughly eight hours to deliver a result and the middle overs in ODIs still put you to sleep, despite the new rule changes. You could watch the first 10 overs, take a nap and wake up for the last 10 and not miss anything significant.

Despite having 32 teams, the FIFA World Cup still finished in a month. Yes, matches are shorter but FIFA also played two games a day. Cricket should try it.

Format and importance of every match: Take Germany at the FIFA World Cup. They had Ghana, USA and Portugal in their group and even though they didn't lose their first two matches, they had to beat USA in their final game and hope Portugal beat Ghana. The other finalists, Argentina, had minnows Iran, Nigeria and Bosnia-Herzegovina in their group. Still, every match had to be won.

At the cricket world cup, India can lose 50 percent of their matches and still make it to the quarters. There's virtually no chance India will lose to Zimbabwe, UAE and Ireland. So if they beat those three teams and lose to South Africa, Pakistan and West Indies, they can still make it into the last eight.

The format also guarantees the top eight Test playing nations a place in the quarters. The corridor of uncertainty is non-existent. Top eight? You're in baby.

Contrast this with the unpredictability of the World Cup. Italy and Spain were knocked out in the group stages while tiny Costa Rica made the quarter-finals.

Cricket's sissy approach: Sport is meant to be tough. Tempers flare, you hit back at the opposition, you swear at them, intimidate them, go head-to-head, hit, bite, kick, wrestle, ask the referee to p*ss off – all because you want to win at all costs. There's no place for a Mario Balotelli or a Luis Suarez in cricket.

The sport had it with sledging and fast bowlers scaring the beejesus out of batsmen. Now the fast bowlers have been neutered and the ICC wants to kill the most exciting part about cricket – sledging.

Clarke telling Anderson to get ready for a broken arm isn't a big deal. It should be considered part of the sport, part of the pressure a batsman has to absorb.

But apparently, players are going to be banned if they sledge, as if talking in itself is hurtful (though admittedly, there is a line. Ramnaresh Sarwan crossed it with McGrath).

Why can't the players just get on with it? After all, nobody gets injured if you say something to them. In football, players have to worry about broken legs and are constantly at risk of injury. It adds an edge to the game that cricket no longer possesses.

No rain, no Duckworth-Lewis confusion: Twenty two runs from one ball. What? No. That's ridiculous. Play the next day – stop the match – or better, find a new calculation or do a tennis – build retractable roofs. The whole rain equation is just silly. There has to be another way to end a match than asking a team to do the unthinkable. Just ask the South Africans. They will probably have some suggestions.

It's an elitist tournament where nobody cares about the qualifiers: Unlike in football, where small teams like San Marino can square off against Italy, are sometimes as exciting and from which a lot of top teams get knocked out – cricket's world cup qualifiers are, as one of my editors put it: "Matches which no one but the nations, the players and their families care about."

The ICC also seems determined to make cricket more exclusive – shrinking the 2019 tournament to 10 teams, while FIFA is thinking about expanding the football World Cup from its current 32 teams so more countries are included.

Qualifying for the Cricket World Cup is no mean feat though.


This year there were four places open for the 95 countries that are not Full Members. From 2019, it will be two places. As if cricket wasn't exclusive enough, the ICC's Dave Richardson recently said: "We cannot guarantee regular ODI cricket for Associate nations."

There are 31 places open for the Football World Cup. Only the hosts have a right to be there.The rest have to earn it.

Frankly, it's no carnival: Fourteen teams play the cricket World Cup – that's 1/14th of the world. There are as many teams in the Kabaddi World Cup and twice as many in the handball World Cup. It's not really 'World' cup.

Until cricket becomes more inclusive, it won't enjoy what football does – a quadrennial event where everyone becomes a fan of the sport.

Case closed.

Courtesy: Firstpost