Bengaluru, April 29: There countdown for the 12th ICC Cricket World Cup is nearing. Hosts England will take on four-time semi-finalists South Africa at the Oval on May 30 while Pakistan will play the Windies in the second game at Trent Bridge on May 31.
India will be the last team to launch their campaign on June 5 when they will take on the Proteas at Rose Bowl, Southampton.
The ICC Cricket World Cup saw expansion of teams briskly since nine teams had played in the 1992 edition where only Zimbabwe was not a Test-playing nation.
Between 1996 and 2015, World Cups saw addition of minnows that saw two or more groups coming into the fray and there were far too many predictable games (barring a few exceptions of course) that killed the charm of the biggest cricketing carnival. The 2015 edition played Down Under saw 14 teams and the group stage was all about the eliminating the flab.
The 2019 edition has seen a return to the 1992 format and this is the first time that not all Test-playing nations have found themselves a place in the tournament.
Zimbabwe and Ireland, the latest to join the Test club along with Afghanistan, have missed out this time while two-time champions West Indies got entry as the 10th and last team after finishing second in the qualifying tournament.
In the forthcoming World Cup, all 10 teams will be playing against each other once with the top four making it to the semi-finals.
With the tournament format having shrunk, a lot of ambitious sides have found it annoying for they feel the game cannot be globalised if the World Cup has such a narrow format. But the counter logic for that will be that the World Cup is not the platform for the novices to learn the game and exhibit their skills.
In the FIFA World Cup, teams have to earn their places through tough qualifying phases to reach the tournament proper. In cricket, the reward comes much more easily.
The round-robin format has certain advantages and makes the game more of a level-playing field. By making all the teams to play the other, there is a more just test of skills and character for the sides. Nobody can really have a bigger blessing of luck when it comes to meeting opponents.
Yes, in the 1992 format, the eventual champions Pakistan had their bit of luck in making it to the semifinals, but minus factors like divine intervention, the teams have to earn it the hard way.
The compact nature of the tournament also minimises the boredom as there will be less number of predictable games.
In the 1992 edition, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe were the weakest of the lot, though they had caused upset (Sri Lanka beat South Africa while Zimbabwe stunned England).
This time, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are not so weak and can pull off surprises, though it will be difficult for them to sustain it over a period of time.