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Format-ting the World Cup

By Nayeem Islam

The ICC Cricket World Cup is the marquee tournament of the cricket fraternity around the world and cricket's success as a sport depends a lot upon the success of its showpiece event. The key to success of the tournament definitely lies in the hands of the players representing the 14 teams of the event; however the prerequisite of every successful sports tournament is a format that makes the matches interesting and ends the event quickly. Unlike FIFA, the ICC, as a governing body has continuously fiddled with the format of its marquee tournament and that's primarily because of the failure of its administrators in finding a formula which enables maximum team participation and also makes the matches interesting. Fulfilling the former required an increase in number of associate nations participating in the tournament proper and in the process led to a number of mundane matches whenever a weaker nation played against one of the Test playing nations.

But after the advent of T20 cricket, there is now a better, quicker and cheaper way of spreading the game throughout the world than increasing the number of minnows participating in the 50-over World Cup. And if this World Cup is a failure like its predecessor in the Caribbean four years ago, it will be finally time for ICC to configure a format which delivers a short and competitive tournament and stick with this rewarding recipe in the long run like FIFA has done with its showpiece event.

But the question remains which format suits the need of the game in its current state? The past nine editions of the World Cup have seen the ICC tinker with five different formats. However, the unanimous opinion is that the formats deployed in 1996 (which will be tested in this tournament too) and 2007 have failed terribly in their purpose of delivering a competitive event.

The 1996 format is relevant to us because it will be used again this time. The first round of the tournament will be a round-robin in which the 14 teams are divided into two groups of seven teams each. The seven teams play each other once with the top four from each group qualifying for the quarter-finals. For this particular format to thrive there must be an intense competition between the seven teams in each group to secure a first four berth by the time all group games are over. But that is not a possibility because at this moment there are only six strong teams in the world plus a competitive Team Bangladesh. The performances of West Indies, New Zealand and Zimbabwe (the other Test playing nations) have considerably nosedived over the past few years.

Looking at Group A of the 2011 Cricket World Cup, one can easily understand that unless Kenya, Zimbabwe or Canada play extraordinary cricket Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand should have no problem in qualifying for the knock out stages. And generally these four teams will not even care when they lose against one another as three easy wins against the minnows will guarantee a quarterfinal berth regardless of the results of matches against stronger opponents. This can lead to lots of dull matches because unless teams see every match as a must win game, they will not be willing to be competitive. And the great folly of this format is the fact that by the time all weak teams are eliminated, and the matches become must win ones, everything would be over in seven knockout matches. Eliminating minnows in one group stage and then playing another group stage (Super Six or Super Eight) between stronger teams is also another format which produces monotonous matches.

What must be remembered is that a spectator pays for his tickets to watch high octane, meaningful matches where strong teams play against each other with the sole motive of being victorious. If the World Cup includes only the top eight teams of the ICC ODI rankings, a lot of meaningless one sided matches would be eliminated and the system of rankings and international cricket outside the tournament would be given their due importance. To maximise the potential of competitive matches, a return to a group stage where each team plays the other seven teams in a round robin format from where the top four teams go to the semifinals (the 1992 format), is a necessity. And it is time the ICC found the format that functions to make its showpiece event the pinnacle of the sport.

Last week, we had the topic: Home, Food Home. Most of you took the conventional route, which was kind of disappointing. We were gunning for funny. Nevertheless, the article below seemed to capture that faint sense of self-mockery and the feeling of dejection that food cures us of. Next week, we have the topic: Cricket vs Football. Submissions should be of less than 500 words and have to be mailed to ds.risingstars@gmail.com before noon Sunday.


Hope Amidst Stink

By Adeeba Nuraina Risha

When life stinks beyond the maximum level of stinking (read: shutki), when you think that your sorry behind is the unluckiest among all the behinds in this world, there is a divine creation of God that gives you hope. It gives you something to look forward to; a whiff of pleasure. It is the one thing you can't live without, literally, and that's not just some corny pick up line meant for someone you'd rather live without. It's food.

“Dost, jabi, pool khelte?” your friend asks you after two hours of physics; not a single word had penetrated your thick skull.
“Na dost, ami bashae jabo,” you reply. Because I get food free at home and I'll have to pay for yours, not to mention mine, too, if I go, you add in your head.

“Hello, jaan! Wanna go to Fiesta tonight?” your girlfriend asks you over the phone.

“I'd love to, honey, but my mom has ordered me to stay home,” you reply. I get good food for free at home; whereas in Fiesta, you'll start gaining the pounds you lost and empty my pocket while you're at it, your thoughts remain unspoken.

The fact is food is ALWAYS there for you. It never fails to cheer you up. People lie and disappoint. They break promises, they destroy the hope in you, and they contaminate the mushy mind of yours. And then there are people like Tom Cruise, who smash hundreds of girls' dreams to smithereens, by marrying Katie Holmes. Or Miley Cyrus, whose awful singing takes you beyond a level of mental torture (or physical, since your eardrums are eternally damaged). Or Shakib Khan, whose every single move, makes you want to hurl dog-poop at him, or shoot him square on the face, so he can't act ever again. The list could go on and on.

Every day you hope against hope that your mommy will bring breakfast to your bed. But as usual, she shatters your optimism and you end up sulking over it like every other hormone-ruled, Justin-Bieber-hating teenager (if you ignore the fact that Bieby's a guy and think that the song's being sung by a girl, his songs still suck). Everybody let's you down. Your family, your friends, your girlfriend/boyfriend, your idols (teenaged girls once saw Lindsay Lohan as a role model. I know! Ironic, isn't it?). But not food.

There's a weird connection between food and home. You sort of associate one with the other. Home means free food. Free as in "your dad's money" free, but certainly not yours. And you don't have to be careful about people watching you and humiliating yourself.

Food and home is a couple. They come in a pair. Like Justin Bieber and bad music, or Bangladesh and earthquakes. Ultimately, food is home. Home is food. Whatever you choose.


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