So we’re nearly a week into the World Cup, and so far the only excitement has come from England nearly losing to Holland. Apart from that, it’s been a littany of terrible mis-matches, batting collapses, facile victories, and general dreariness. Thank goodness for England’s ineptitude – otherwise things really would be bleak.
Why does this keep happening? The 2011 tournament is set to be the third really boring World Cup in a row. Many will blame the overlong, over-complicated format. But every four years the structure is twiddled and tweaked again, in the desperate hope of injecting some drama – and yet nothing seems to work.
Perhaps our English perspective exaggerates the sense of apathy and ennui. As a nation, we fell out of love with the World Cup in May 1999, when we were knocked out by India in the group stage. That farcical and demoralising exit, from a tournament we were hosting ourselves, knocked the stuffing out of us. Since then, we’ve approached each England World Cup campaign with a resigned fatalism – as do, you suspect, the players. We all know it will descend into a shambles, the only question being how quickly and how badly. So how can we get remotely excited by the prospect?
But the issue probably goes deeper. We enjoy the football World Cup irrespective of England’s progress, and even whether they actually qualify for it. There are plenty of exciting, absorbing matches for us to watch as neutrals.
Our guess is that fifty over cricket itself is to blame. The entire format, quite frankly, is rubbish. Now forty years old, ODIs have long since served their purpose and been utterly usurped by their pacier, brasher cousin – T20.
50 over cricket only gets interesting when there’s a close finish. But T20 also supplies those dramatic endgames – so what do we gain from the extra thirty overs? Does anyone ever enjoy those deathly middle overs, and the sight of the batsmen boredly pushing singles while the spinners aim at leg stump? Powerplays have not solved this problem – they’ve only made the game even less organic and intuitive.
This is the tenth 50 over World Cup. Why not let it be the last? Who will mourn it? Who would yearn for it’s restoration? Let’s just focus on proper cricket – test matches – and T20 for crowds and spectacle.
Of course, if England somehow end up winning the damn thing, expect us to say the complete opposite in six weeks’ time.