The 49 matches involving 14 nations and preposterously spread over six weeks make the Cricket World Cup the most pointlessly truncated showpiece event in world sport. Yet despite the best efforts of the ICC and television broadcasters to elongate a process that guarantees the success of nations that provide the grandest viewing figures, the cricket itself will be of a high enough quality to dissuade the cynicism. Eventually.
The format from the drearily long 2011 tournament on the sub-continent has been retained for this year’s antipodean adventure; 14 teams will take part in the initial stages, divided into two groups of seven; the seven teams play each other once before the top four teams from each group qualify for the quarter-finals. The format ensures that each team gets to play a minimum of six matches even if they exit in the group stage.
The process guarantees that the major nations will all play each other, and with qualification a near certainty if they avoid humiliation against the associate and affiliate member nations – this year comprising Ireland, Afghanistan, Scotland and the United Arab Emirates – meaning the competition may well prove a damp squib until the knockout stage begins on March 18.