Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Not the debacle we expected

Michael correctly noted that this World Cup is becoming a debacle. However, it is doing so in a way that was not expected.

Most of the fears surrounding this tournament in the leadup was about the ability of the West Indies to host it properly. There were fears that the new stadiums would not be finished in time, and there were also worries that the transport infrastructure of the region would buckle under the strain of so many tourists. There was also a concern that the relaxed attitude of the region would not be compatible with the 'just in time' demands of event organisers and television broadcasters.

These fears have largely been unfounded- the stadiums are finished, the tourists have disappeared with the demise of the Indian and Pakistani teams, and apart from the notable slackness of the ground authorities to clean up the rain in the Bangladesh vs Australia fixture, the hosts have been competent.

The debacle has instead come from the ICC, and it comes in two major forms. The first is the scheduling, which has caused the tournament to drag out for too long. During the group phases there were two matches a day, which is fine. It is also compatible with most major television networks. What we have is a situation where there are 24 super 8 fixtures- they could have been played in a little over 2 weeks, and instead the whole thing is dragging over close to four weeks. This taxes the patience and interest of even the most ardent cricket fans. We aren't even half way through the super 8 phase and already it is hard to maintain interest.

The other problem is that the ICC has swamped the grounds with so many rules, regulations, and price gouging that they have alienated the paying public from attending, especially the locals. International tourists, who have paid considerable sums of money to attend feel compelled to put up with this, but the local fans have voted with their feet by staying home. This situation has come about because the ICC has been seduced by the corporate dollar. Therefore, the ICC considers its customers to be the television customers and the sponsors it can attract. However, the ICC is only attractive to these organisations in as much as it provides access to customers; by treating cricket fans in such a high-handed manner, the ICC is actually devaluing itself. There is already talk that the Korean chaebol LG is 'reviewing' its sponsorship. (This is code for not renewing). This is probably actually caused by India's failure to make the super 8s, but the constant images of empty stadiums that we see underline the ICC's failure at every point. It would be better for everyone if the ICC at this stage simply opened the games up for free and quit banning horns and acting like Big Brother. That would require that ICC admit that it has been wrong, and that is something Big Brother can never do.

The former editor of Wisden Cricketer's Almanack, Tim de Lisle, has more thoughts on this issue.

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