Bad pitch

Bad pitchDespite the high scores, the 2007 Cricket World Cup will be remembered for all the wrong reasonsVeturi Srivatsa DelhiFollowing the Caribbean experience, the International Cricket Council (ICC) will hopefully realise that the World Cup cannot be played just anywhere without a logical, and logistical, plan in place. Soccer can be taken globally, but not cricket. If tradition and cricket folklore alone is good enough to make an event like the World Cup a big success, 2007 should have been as good as any organised in England, or jointly in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka or Australia and New Zealand. It was not. One major flaw in the Windies World Cup was that it was beyond the means of the ordinary cricket fan.  It was definitely the most expensive of all World Cups. The ICC should know that it needs a lot more than just the sun, sea and sand to retrieve such a major event from morass.  Wisdom dawned upon ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed barely a day before the final in Bridgetown, Barbados—the event was too long and exhausting for everyone’s comfort. But he still insists on having 16 teams for the next edition in the subcontinent, although he said he might consider reducing the duration by a week. One need not be unfair to minnows like Ireland, Kenya—who incidentally were the first non-Test playing side to enter the semifinals in the 2003 Cup in South Africa—Scotland, Bermuda or the Netherlands, but their presence was seen more as a joke than a contributory factor to the growth of the game. Everyone fondly hoped that the Australians would have at least one bad day. Nothing of that sort happened as even the theory of averages had no meaning for them, and the gulf between Australia and the rest widened even further as they won the Cup for the third time in a row. It was a ruthless exhibition of professionalism and competitiveness. Yet, the World Cup will be remembered not for those three hundred plus scores or the exit of India and Pakistan at the prelims itself, but what happened at Room 374 at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston. One of the cricket world’s most charismatic figures and Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in mysterious circumstances and as of now, the mystery has still not been solved. Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka have shown, to an extent, that the World Cup is not a place to field youngsters. All three teams fielded players in the early and mid-, or even late, 30s. And the seniors played, and acted, maturely in what for many of them was their last World Cup. Australian captain Ricky Ponting’s cricket philosophy is commendable. He said he was disappointed to lose players like Shane Warne, Glen McGrath, Justin Langer and Damien Martyn, but looked ahead to exiting times with a lot of talented youngsters in the team. “It's going to be a real challenge for the senior players to make sure they elevate their games and drag the younger guys along with them,” he said, “I remember when I first got into the side in 1995, I had some excellent senior players to sit back, look at and admire and watch the way they go about their cricket," he added. Before India and Pakistan got booted out in the first round, it was thought that the format for this cup was the best after the 1992 event, when all Test-playing nations had to play each other before arriving at the semi-final stage. But the format turned out to be a graveyard for the sub-continental crowd-pullers, although it proved to be a boon for Bangladesh, who first beat India to move into the Super Eights, and then went on to beat South Africa. Bangladesh will be taken a little more seriously from now on but Ireland, who beat Pakistan in the group stages, need to put a system in place and train home-grown players rather than rely on guest artists. With India and Pakistan missing in the Super Eights, Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and New Zealand had a relatively easy time ad moved into the semi-finals. After the World Cup, now what? It is always profitable to play India, for reasons of cricket and fiscal. Even world champions Australia are keen on playing India at offshore venues. They were slated to play in the Americas but lack of infrastructure forced them to delay the event. The Aussies were also keen on replacing South Africa, who will play India in Ireland this summer. Bahrain is finding it difficult to put up a show with Pakistan and Sri Lanka after India pulled out following differences with Indian  officials last year. An India-Pakistan game is always the biggest money-spinner, but will the world treat it the same way after the two have been reduced to also-ran at the world Cup? It’s time the authorities in the two countries look at their own future. They should remember that talent has to be spotted and nurtured with care.