So It's finally over. I wonder how many kids are running out to buy a cricket bat or a pair of pads and throwing away their tennis racket because this World Cup has been so exciting, so riveting that cricket's now the game they want to play?
May be in Australia. Well done to them again. Gilchrist's innings was true greatness and McGrath's entire career has been stamped with that quality. But to me, a World Cup is all about grabbing attention. To have games where people arrive at work and say to each other "wow, did you see that match yesterday?" The Cup is a showcase for cricket and all that is good about the game.
This one has, however, been disappointing. Too long, for starters. Then, the teams at the top and the bottom were too far apart in class and ability, which made for too many dead games. The high-ticket prices, the empty grounds and the regulations banning locals from bringing in whatever they usually do robbed the tournament of some of its flavour.
I know from my short trip to the World Cup in Trinidad, the ICC seemed neurotic about security. There were fences everywhere as if the grounds were preparing for stampeding spectators carrying exploding conch shells. Yet, the stadium was full in only one of the six games I attended which made me wonder who the security was trying to keep out. Maybe the fences and rules were in place to stop the spectators from leaving. Those faithful fans who travelled all the way to the Caribbean would have enjoyed the warmth and laid-back attitude of West Indian people, because the cricket in general was anticlimactic.
When will the ICC get it right? The last World Cup was hobbled by teams who decided not play in Kenya or Zimbabwe and the last three ICC Champions Trophies have, for various reasons ended up an irrelevance.
The next World Cup will be here in the subcontinent and I hope you get to run it without too much interference from headquarters.
To anyone in charge of 2011 who is listening, here, for starters, is my wish list:
No event longer than 30 to 35 days. I don't care a fig if there are two or three games on the same day. It gives me more choice.
Fill the grounds. Please. There is nothing more harmful to the image of a sport when two teams are slugging it out in a supposedly big event in a half-empty stadium. Let people in for free if necessary. If Ireland is playing Holland, pay them to come.
Think through the tournament format carefully. You can keep your Irish jigs and ferret dances. No matter how badly they played, I missed India and Pakistan this year.
Let's have more must-win games, quarterfinals maybe. Or a more intense final stage: where the teams that finish 2, 3, 4 after the group stage play each other for the right to play the No. 1 team. Think about a best of three final maybe. Something, anything would be better than this two-bad-days-and-off-you-go-home. Mind you, I bet the same thought must have struck the accountants and the sponsors who will definitely have their say at the next Cup.
No handouts, there are more deserving charities than the World Cup. It’s a serious competition, not an event put up to give everybody a turn. A maximum of eight or 10 teams and that's it.
Now there are four years to sort out who those teams should be. If it makes for a busy schedule then increase the size of the each team squad, say from 14 to 16. Whatever is decided by those who are running the Cup, let's get the tournament structure right and forget about the dollars, for if we have too many tournaments like this last World Cup, there might be less dollars floating about the next time around.