An opaque ICC T20 World Cup, where 'I' represents India | Cricket News

Josh Hazlewood ruffled a few feathers when he raised the possibility of Australia doing their bit to push England out of the competition. He responded to the question that it was in Australia's interests to boost Scotland's chances and hasten Jos' early exit for Buttler and Co. But things in Group B ended with the two powers finishing first and second.

Australia won all four of their matches with a good net strike rate of 2.791. Typically in any global tournament this would mean an advantage. But not in the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2024. Australia, who finished top of Group B, were predetermined to meet India, who finished top of Group A, in the Super 8 stage . For what? Because India was pre-ranked A1 and Australia B2 for the Super 8s, whether they finished first or second in the group.

“I think there's a big question to be asked about pre-ranking. I’m not sure I’m a fan of that,” Australia pacer Mitchell Starc said after the win over Scotland.
He raised one of several important questions regarding the format and schedule in place for the 2024 edition. The lack of transparency around the draw, a schedule that grants India some favors and a structure that actively discourages any surprise or intrigue are some of the flaws running through this World Cup in the United States and the West Indies.

Opaque group stage draws

First of all, the ICC continues to be opaque with its “draws” for World Cups. No matter the format, India and Pakistan end up facing each other in the first round. You have to go back to the 2012 T20 World Cup for a major ICC event where India and Pakistan were not pre-drawn to be guaranteed a showdown.

Pakistan captain Babar Azam, right, and Indian captain Rohit Sharma enter the field before the start of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in Westbury, New York. Pakistan captain Babar Azam, right, and Indian captain Rohit Sharma enter the field before the start of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan at the International Cricket Stadium in Nassau County in Westbury, New York. (AP | PTI)

There is little information on how these draws take place, they have only just been announced. Imagine a FIFA World Cup where Argentina and Brazil were “drawn” to face each other from the early stages, as this would be guaranteed to attract attention. Of late, Australia v England and Sri Lanka v Bangladesh matches are also on the ICC's list of must-see matches.

A weird pre-seeding

Festive offer

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As mentioned above, the group stage matches have been designed to have virtually no impact on the Super 8 stage which begins on Wednesday. Group 1 was to be: A1, B2, C1, D2 and group 2 was A2, B1, C2, D1 – where 1 and 2 are not based on where the teams finished but on pre-fixed rankings.

If Afghanistan finishes top of Group C, the first Super 8 group will include three group leaders while the other will include three teams that finished second.
The fact that the United States, Afghanistan and Bangladesh defied the rankings to advance to the Super 8 ended up adding a bit of intrigue to the second stage. But a riveting match like Afghanistan vs West Indies has absolutely no bearing on where they are likely to end up at the next stage, stripping the tournament of any danger. Despite all the rumors that Australia could face investigation and sanctions if they somehow lost to Scotland – which could have been to their total advantage – the tournament was designed in such a way that a pile of dead rubbers is inevitable.

A team above all

It's no secret that any Cricket World Cup is planned to maximize India's presence. (Remember the situation in the 2007 ODI World Championship where India were stunned in the group stage, after a shock defeat to Bangladesh.) At the risk of turning to football again, France in 2002 or l Germany in 2018 (or 2022) – when one of the players in the match's biggest teams is forced to withdraw early – this no longer seems likely for India as the draws seem very organized.

The ODI World Cup format has morphed into a UEFA Champions League of sorts and the supposed shorter and wilder T20 format is also doing everything to ensure that India are unlikely to go out without playing at least five or six matches. Even in their forgettable 2021 campaign, India were guaranteed five matches as it was a Super 12 with 6 teams each in a pool.

T20 World Cup 2024: India vs Canada scrapped Head coach of the Indian team Rahul Dravidright, talk to the captain Rohit Sharma ahead of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match between Canada and India at Central Broward Regional Park Stadium, Lauderhill, Florida, Saturday, June 15, 2024. (AP/PTI)

In 2024, India had the comfort of minimal travel in the group stage (three matches in Nassau followed by a quick trip to Florida), while most other teams had to hop from venue to venue , or even a country, and travel many air miles. India were treated to a warm-up match in Nassau, with their three group stage opponents all playing their first matches at the new venue on the day they met India.

Example: When the United States played India in New York, the tournament “co-hosts” were playing there for the first time while the away team had already played three matches there.

Prime-time dining in India

Rohit Sharma and Co also have the advantage of knowing that each of their matches will be played at the same time – which is prime time in India. There is no need to adapt to play at different times of the day. Even their Super 8 matches were already decided by 8 p.m. in India. And India are the only team who know in which venue they will play their semi-final which also begins at 8 pm IST.

Much of this is likely dictated by broadcasters. But for years, India has had fans who wake up early in the morning to experience the Australian summer or stay up late to enjoy the rhythms of the Caribbean. There is also an element of surprise missing in determining the teams' progression in the tournament, which is completely reset from Wednesday, with the group stage having no carryover to the Super 8.

By hosting this 20-team event, the ICC has well and truly put the world in a World Cup, but there is still much to be done to make it a truly global sporting event.

© The Indian Express Pvt Ltd

First published online on: 06-17-2024 at 11:22 p.m. IST

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