Tuesday 18 May 2010

2010 World Cups: One down, one to go

On England winning cricket's Twenty20 World Cup

Finally, after 35 years, England has won a Cricket World Cup. It may only be the 20 over version, the Twenty20 World Cup, but for long suffering cricket fans it is long overdue.

The final highlighted and overturned the established cricketing order. Australia, the best team in the world for the past two decades, were determined to win as the Twenty20 is the only world cricketing trophy to have eluded them. England by contrast had never won a world cricketing trophy. England started the match well, got a stranglehold on the game and never let up.  The England players were confident and determined, their fielding inspired, the batting audacious and captain Paul Collingwood seems to have matured into a tactical genius. By contrast Australia never really got going and captain Michael Clarke could not find a way to get his team back into the game. The spirit of this England side is so unlike the plucky losers for which this country is famous, and it is a joy to behold.

The Twenty20 World Cup is often criticised for its lack of skill and short format. In reality the game requires different skills to the longer forms of the game. Whilst I still believe that the test format is the highest form of cricket, hopefully now the cricketing snobs in England will stop looking down their noses at the Twenty20 game.

The real problem with any Cricket World Cup is that it is a World Cup in name only. Cricket is a minority sport played seriously in a small number of nations, and it is only the national game in a few countries in Asia. To most of the world and indeed to most people in the UK, the tournament might as well not have taken place. This was brought home to me when I arrived back in Paddington station after the cricket final had finished. There were hundreds of cheering fans on the concourse. They were not celebrating England’s victory, but Oxford United fans chanting ‘Oxford till I die’ celebrating their teams victory in the play-off final at Wembley and their team’s return to the football league after a four year absence.

By contrast the football World Cup which begins in South Africa on 11 June is a truly global event, which will be watched and followed passionately in all corners of the world. As Steve Bloomfield’s book Africa United: How football explains Africa illustrates, football is played and followed and inspires people in every part of the African continent, in war zones, Muslim or Christian countries, whether rich or poor, football is a universal sport. Hopefully the England footballers can emulate the cricketers, but winning a Cup played by the whole world is a very different task.

This has been the week of the sporting faux pas. Lord Triesman has fallen on his sword after some indiscrete comments he uttered in private were recorded and published in the Mail on Sunday. In these cynical times people are grubbing around looking for the worst in people, even private remarks, and the UK press is happy to publish material which could scupper the England World Cup bid.

Having said that, I cannot get excited about the 2018 bid. I want England to win rather than stage the right to host sporting tournaments, although if the two are related then so much the better.

I was much more concerned about the ill fated Fabio Capello index. The England manager was planning to rate every England player publicly after each match in this summer’s World Cup. This seemed an idiotic course of action during the pressure cauldron of a major tournament, and I was worried that Capello had taken his eyes off the ball. The proposal was quickly withdrawn , but hopefully Capello will have got the wavelengths right on his antennae by the time South Africa 2010 begins on Friday 11 June.

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