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Apr 30, 2007

World Cup 2007: would you really have it any other way?

Sambit Bal, the editor of cricinfo.com, has criticised the cricket World Cup for being vast and meaningless. But Mat Larkin says it's the disasters that have made an otherwise predictable tournament memorable.

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“In the end, it will be a tournament that will be remembered for the bad, ugly and terrible …The legacy of this vast and meaningless World Cup will be despair and emptiness. It couldn’t have ended sooner.” — Sambit Bal, editor of Cricinfo.com.

Whoa, Sambit, hold on a second, there’s a baby in that bathwater! Let’s not be coy about this: the 2007 Cricket World Cup was both ridiculously vast (think Bermuda’s cheap-shot magnet Dwayne Leverock) and meaningless in ways that only a Scotland vs. Holland cricket match can be.

But despair and emptiness? This is a sports tournament, not Gretel Killeen’s make-up truck! The World Cup has always been a bit of a shambles, but like the crashes in Nascar, the disasters often render an otherwise predictable experience memorable. Yesterday’s innovative introduction of the day/night final without lights had no bearing on the result and was in many ways one of its more lovable cock-ups. How can you not love an hour of play which featured:

  • A rain-break taken at the end of a fifteen-minute cloudburst, just as the sun was returning.
  • A global sports event in darkness.
  • Two charming Australian victory celebrations.

There’s plenty more where that came from, too. At the 1996 opening ceremony in Kolkata, excruciating apologies ensued when the teams were announced out of order and the centrepiece, a giant, laser-animated something-or-other, failed when the giant bed-sheet screen was unexpectedly blown away by a light breeze. In 1992, an insane rain rule left South Africa with a grossly unfair 22 runs to score from the final ball of the Sydney semi-final. Not so lovable, but where would the ‘Famous South Africa Hoodoo’ be without it?

And did someone say match forfeits? Kenya in the semi-finals?

So let’s not get all depressed about it: fix the stuff that needs fixing, like the format, ticketing and logistics — but hands off the shambles, Sambit. Sure, cricket world cups are badly run, too expensive, sponsor-hijacked, bulky and largely remembered for catastrophes, but would you really prefer a soulless, polished cricket Superbowl?

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