Congratulations to India for winning the cricket World Cup. They clearly deserved it. Attention now will turn to the next World Cup, and the controversial plan to cut the number of teams to 10. Allow me to give my opinion, as an avid cricket watcher. (Alas, playing cricket is rather difficult in Switzerland).
At least 2 associate teams must be included. The performance of Ireland and the Netherlands was not only impressive, it was exciting. Every world cup has featured at least one “minnow” that created an upset. Such upsets are what makes sport interesting.
At the same time, the games involving Canada and Kenya held little interest. It was quite clear early on that no upset was on the cards. They were easily beaten by the test-playing nations, and no-one really cared when they played each other.
The inclusion of the minnows meant that a lot of the group games were very one-sided. There were 42 group games, but each test playing nation played a minnow as often as they played another test playing nation. What we really come to see in the world cup are the top teams playing each other. But once we passed the group stage, the tournament was over within 7 sudden death matches.
So, here is what we want from an ideal world cup:
- We want minnow vs. big-gun games only when the minnow has a reasonable chance of an upset.
- We want to maximise the number of big-gun vs big-gun games. When we’ve eliminated the rest, we want more than 7 games of the best.
- This world cup transitioned very quickly from the “plenty of second chances” group stage to the sudden-death stage. This isn’t ideal.
Can this be done? Here is my idea.
Seed the groups. Pre-tournament, the top 12 teams in the world (incl. 2 associate teams) are seeded by their ICC ranking.
- Group A: Teams 1,2,3,4
- Group B: Teams 5,6,7,8
- Group C: Teams 9,10,11,12
Group stage: Each team plays each member of its group once. 18 games. At the end of the group stage, teams are ranked: A1, A2, A3, A4, B1, B2 … C3, C4.
- C3 and C4 are eliminated.
- A1 and A2 go through to the final 8.
Final 8 playoff: The middle 8 teams playoff in 2 tiers. 4 games
- Alpha playoffs: A3 vs B2, A4 vs. B1.
- Beta playoffs: B3 vs C2, B4 vs. C1.
- After these playoffs, we have a ranking: Alpha 1, Alpha 2, … Beta4
- Beta 3 and Beta 4 are eliminated.
Final 8: The ranking in the final 8 is very important – a higher ranking makes it harder to be eliminated. The ranking order is:
A1 : A2 : Alpha1 : Alpha2 : Alpha3 : Alpha4 : Beta1 : Beta2
We can now do more than the 7 game, sudden-death quarter finals. At the very least, we could use the McIntyre final-8 system. My preferred system is as follows – it ensures that a final 8 team must lose at least 2 games to be eliminated. Each win puts you in a better situation – there is no incentive to lose.
- Rank the final 8: 1,2,3 … 8.
- Round 1: 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, 4 vs. 5. Rank the winners W1 … W4, losers L1 … L4
- Round 2: W1 vs W4, W2 vs. W3. L1 vs. L4, L2 vs. L3. Losers in the L games are eliminated. Winners of the W games receive a bye.
- Round 3: Play the 4 teams (winners in the L games, losers in the W games) against each other. Losers are eliminated.
- Finals – best of three.
This is 15 games, including the three finals. The entire tournament has 37 games – 12 less than this World Cup. Minnows that play big-guns have earned their place, are in form and are facing a big-gun that is coming off losses – a recipe for an upset. There are as many minnow vs minnow games as in this world cup, fewer minnow vs big-gun and many more big-gun vs. big-gun. It would be easy to play minnow vs. minnow (group C) games on the same day as Group A games.
Tell the ICC, won’t you … I’ll just wait here for the Barnes system to catch on …