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Sunday April 03 2011

I have nothing very original to say about the World Cup Final yesterday.  (I’m talking about cricket, of course.) I enjoyed it very much, and I particularly admired the batting of Mahela Jayawardene for Sri Lanka and of Mahendra Singh Dhoni for India, as did millions of others.

Yuvraj Singh also batted calmly at the end for India to help Dhoni see them home, and in general Yuvraj had a great series, being named Man of it.  I also enjoy Yuvraj’s default facial expression, which appears to be, in about equal measures, a mixture of anger and shock.  Strangely, he looks much more good humoured in most of these pictures.

Antoine Clarke has just emailed me to say that his Norlonto Review is back in business, and that he also had things to say about this wondrous sporting event, including this, which is a slightly more acute observation than anything I can manage:

I’m guessing this is the biggest celebration of a sporting win by anyone at anytime in any sport.

I guess that’s right.  It certainly was fun listening to excited Indian commentators talking about India winning “the world cup”, without it seeming to cross their minds that there are any other world cups in the world of any significance.

Now, if those Chinese were ever to get seriously interested in cricket ...

About China, keeping up with India might do it…

The gambling bit will be fine, as in bookies will happily promote the game, I should imagine.

Either way, it seems to me that cricket is now primarily an Asian sport.

Snooker is one game that seems to be catching on in China. I see the China Open and the Shanghai Masters are now two of the nine snooker major tournaments. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_snooker_tournaments

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 03 April 2011

"It certainly was fun listening to excited Indian commentators talking about India winning “the world cup”, without it seeming to cross their minds that there are any other world cups in the world of any significance.”

Yes, a glimpse of what it is like not to follow soccer.

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 03 April 2011

My wife was deeply unimpresssed with the idea of a “world championship” involving twelve countries, all but one of them former parts of the British Empire. Although it’s obviously better than the “World” Series.

I hugely enjoyed the game despite not being a real cricket fan: Jayawardene’s turnaround of Sri Lanka’s fortunes (only man ever to score a century on the losing side in the world championshp? I think I heard somewhere) India’s early lost wickets, India’s Dhoni-led chase tense all the way until that spectacular final six ...

Posted by Alan Little on 04 April 2011

At the start of this tournament, I read an editorial in the Evening Standard suggesting that the 50 over World Cup was at this point a tired event that nobody was interested in whatsoever, and that it should not even be being held any more. For fairly obvious reasons, this was tiresome and not a viewpoint likely to be held in Delhi, but it did reflect the view that Twenty20 was on the rise, that the last couple of World Cups were disappointing events, and that the format for this year’s event was too longwinded. As it happened, the event this year ended up being hugely successful, had great crowds and good cricket, and everyone appears to have had a wonderful time.

As for the Indians really wanting to win it, they won it in 1983, which was a huge occasion for them but also a bit of a fluke. As the years have gone by and it has proved so hard to win it again, the potential occasion when they did win it again got bigger and bigger. It will be interesting to see what happens to the even now that they have actually done so.

Alan: This World Cup had 14 teams, not 12. (There is a preliminary plan to reduce it to 10 for the next event, but after the success of this year’s event, this is presently being re-evaluated).  I am fairly sure that the 14 countries at the cricket World Cup contain a similar total population (and probably a greater population) than the 32 countries at the last soccer World Cup. That’s all about India of course, but is that a weakness or a strength? Cricket has conquered one of the world’s really big countries. Soccer hasn’t, at least not at a playing and local teams level. The number of teams with a realistic chance of winning the World Cup in cricket is about seven, and again that is a fairly similar number to what exists in soccer. In soccer, the competitive teams only come from two continents, and in cricket they come from at least four. (Does one still count the WI as a “competitive team”?). Soccer clearly has a wider reach in terms of following - lots of people watch the game in places that don’t have much tradition of playing the game - but does it have a wider reach in terms of playing the game? Yes, actually, but to what extent?

On the other hand, I was in Estonia once, and I walked past a field in which a group of people in immaculately pressed whites were playing cricket, with considerable seriousness. They were mostly clearly Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and/or Sri Lankans, but still.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 04 April 2011

The ICC has a qualifying tournament with 12 countries taking part. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Cricket_World_Cup_(qualification)

Note the UAE, Oman and Afghanistan…
Bermuda
Canada
Ireland
Kenya
Netherlands
Scotland
UAE
Oman
Namibia
Denmark
Afghanistan
Uganda

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 04 April 2011

About the 50 over game. I admit I was one of those suggesting scrapping the format and moving to Twenty20 and Tests only.

For domestic cricket, I still think that’s right, but I have second thoughts about this world cup.

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 04 April 2011

70 countries have ICC membership.

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 04 April 2011

I think one issue now is that there is history in the tournament. The World Cup has been held ten times now and has been going for nearly 40 years. That’s a fairly big deal, and we have great performances, winning streaks, grudges, weird choking histories and all kinds of traditions that have come from that, and that it would be a shame to lose or abandon.

The ICC seem to now be talking about a 12 team tournament in Australia in 2015, which I think includes probably about the right number of minnows.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 04 April 2011

Let’s put it this way.

The commercial director of the ICC will feel like blowing his brains out live on TV if anyone seriously suggests cancelling the next world cup on the grounds that the format is “tired.”

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 04 April 2011

Was I the only one watching Indians talking about “28 years of hurt” since they last won a World Cup and wished they would shut up?

1966. 1970. 1974. 1978. 1982. 1986. 1990. 1994. 1998. 2002. 2006. 2010…

“ill 33” is the anti-spam code.

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 04 April 2011

> Cricket has conquered one of the world’s really big countries. Soccer hasn’t

The only criteria by which Brazil is “not a really big country”, are criteria by which only India and China are.

> Note the UAE, Oman and Afghanistan…

All “former parts of the British Empire” with ony mild definition-stretching

Posted by Alan Little on 04 April 2011

Alan,

1) I think Michael meant that Soccer hasn’t conquered India or China the way cricket was won over India.

2) I didn’t list the 70 ICC full and associate members: but France, Germany, Japan and the USA. To be on that list a country has to be “where cricket is firmly established and organised.”

Brazil is, of course, an ICC affilate member. ;-)

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 04 April 2011

Alan: Yes, I would think that is the criteria I was using, and one should not understate the immensity of the difference between that criterion and any other. India has seven times the population of Brazil. India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh together (Sri Lanka being a rounding error) have nearly four times the population of Latin America.

Antoine: Four years ago, after Bangladesh had beaten India and Sri Lanka were in the process of doing the same, I was sitting in a bar in London where some Indians were watching the game

“We are so crap. We shouldn’t be, but we are”.
“Yes, and we will always be crap”.
“Crap”

etc. They had the exact manner and body language of England soccer fans down pat. I think I am glad this is probably over.

The commercial director of the ICC will feel like blowing his brains out live on TV if anyone seriously suggests cancelling the next world cup on the grounds that the format is “tired.”

The Australian organisers of the next tournament will be rubbing their hands with glee, I would think. Australian officials in recent years have become very adept at agreeing to anything the Indian board asks for, as long as they are paid obscene sums of money in return. It’s a hightly mutally beneficial relationship. (This year’s tournament being in India was one example. It was clearly Australia’s turn, but Australia was persuaded to withdraw their bid and bid for 2015 instead. What they got in return for this was guarantees of a lot of rupees, presumably.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 04 April 2011

Decision to cut the number of teams to 10 is ridiculous.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/cricket/12964294.stm

I think it’s Australian spite, just like changing the laws in 1935 because they couldn’t handle leg theory. :-)

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 05 April 2011

Antoine: I agree completely that it is ridiculous, and so does pretty much everyone else.

Australian spite for what though? Australians have always been warm friends of the Irish.

On the other hand, however much they are saying this decision is “final”, it isn’t yet. There is plenty of time in which they can change their mind later. For the 1992 World Cup, the number of competing teams was increased just a few months before the tournament (and even after the organisers had released the match schedule) due to the readmission of South Africa into world cricket. We will see what happens.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 05 April 2011

Wow.  I’ve been away during the last day or two, and I thought there’d been a spam attack.

Michael, thanks in particular for the point that the decision to exclude the little cricket countries is not actually final.  Good to hear.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 05 April 2011

I can see England voting to keep out the Irish and other minnows. The ECB’s predecessors have a habit of taking a protectionist line (like other English sporting authorities). I hope I’m wrong.

Michael, one of Australian sport’s strengths is that Australians often seem to be bad losers (as in, they hate losing). I was mischievously implying that the cut in numbers was a reaction to losing twice in this World Cup, although I’m sure the cost of running the event is the real excuse.

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 05 April 2011
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