Well, the cricket world cup has begun in the West Indies, and the first stage consists of 24 “group matches” over a couple of weeks. The pool of 16 teams is divided into 4 groups of 4, with each group containing two “contender” teams, and two “minnows” who are either in the lower rungs of the ICC one-day rankings, or are associate ICC nations. After the group matches, the top two of each group proceed to the next stage.
This means that of the 24 matches, only 4 of them feature two contender teams, 4 of them are between two minnows, and the remaining 16 will pitch a minnow against a contender, like a lamb to the slaughter. Margins of 200+ runs have already featured in a couple of these games. Clearly the strategy for a minnow when winning the toss is to bowl first, if only to ensure they get the chance to bowl a full 50 overs against a top team.
In a long, 6-week tournament such a this, one must question the wisdom of such scheduling. Who do these games benefit? Do they assist the top teams in reaching and maintaing form? The key to winning in a format like this is to do enough to get into position for the semis, and to peak at the right time. I doubt if Sri Lanka gained anything in the context of their campain, by crushing Bermuda to the tune of 243 runs.
Can the minnows develop and gain from the experience of playing the established ICC teams? Or are they simply demoralized when these matches highlight the huge gap in competitiveness?
Many questions, yes. My suggestion for a better way is coming soon.