The ICC almost bend over backwards to avoid describing the World Twenty20 tournament as a "World Cup". They own the event, they are the world governing body, and therefore it is not a World Cup. To the rest of us, however, if it looks like a World Cup, feels like a World Cup, smells like a World Cup...
On the last point however, I digress. The smell is worse.
There is very little about the World Twenty20 to leave us satisfied that it is a fair and proper means of determining the best national team in the world. For an event that in size and structure is a prototype for a possible Olympic cricket tournament of the future (though not possible before 2024), the 2012 WT20 hasn't been a great advertisement so far.
With a rest day today in the men's competition before the semi-finals (Pakistan v Sri Lanka on Thursday, Australia v West Indies on Friday), these are some of my observations on the points that should be taken away from the 2012 ICC World Twenty20:
Despite being a twelve-team tournament, the schedule was clearly designed to pack the four lesser teams out of the way as quickly as possible. Zimbabwe and Afghanistan had lost their two games and departed from the competition before England, Pakistan and the West Indies even played their first game. Ireland and Bangladesh followed within 48 hours. (England and Pakistan had even played a warm-up game on the day after the official competition began.)
This is a tournament that had originally been planned, for the first time, as a 16-team event, but then bizarrely cut back in 2011 to twelve teams at the same time that the 2015 fifty-over World Cup was expanded from ten teams to 14. The connection between the two? A reduction in the size of the World T20 provides a balance in the total number of broadcast hours of ICC-owned tournaments (World T20, World Cup, Champions Trophy) in the years through till 2015.
But it’s also clear that the “minnows” of the tournament are treated with disdain by the tournament organisers, so much so that the draw for the “Super 8” stage didn’t even have any regard to placings coming out of the initial group stages. Super 8 places were, in fact, based on seedings decided prior to the competition itself!
If the ICC and its business partners does not have faith in any more than eight or nine of its member teams to be competitive in a world tournament such as this, then that represents how poor the health of the world game actually is. Global development still has a long way to go, and any dreams of Olympic acceptance (if indeed there is any serious push for this) can be delayed till the 2030s or 2040s or even beyond.
The ICC promises that the 2014 World Twenty20, set to be held in Bangladesh, will proceed with sixteen participants. I fear we’ll see a quick knockout round before a group-based super 8 comp.