Colombo: Every tournament - its structure, fixtures and rules - exists for a reason. Commercial concerns are the big decision-makers, of course, but common sense and logic matter too.
Under the circumstances, year after year, tournament after tournament, big cricket events defy all logic with their structuring. We have just come to the end of the first five or six days of the World Twenty20, without seeing much of import. Results have gone the way you would expect them to.
Indeed, the world is expanding - for football, cricket and all sports. And we rejoice at these growing boundaries. At the same time, we must approach the new order sensibly and plan smartly.
The football World Cup has had to move from a 24-team set-up till the 1990s to a 32-team format. Importantly, FIFA has still managed to host the tournament within the space of a month. The Olympics still take exactly two weeks from start to finish, as do tennis's Grand Slam events. These events have not allowed the viewer's interest to flag.
Part of the reason, especially for the football World Cup, is obviously that football is a much more global sport than cricket might ever be. But it's also because FIFA, and the rest of the footballing world, realise that the standards of the eight worst teams among the 32 are good enough to make their games against the top eight sides moderately competitive.
Critically, FIFA carries out a comprehensive elimination process before the start of what is called the World Cup Finals, where even the biggest teams need to prove that they are good enough to qualify. Along with that, there are well-planned international friendlies, pitting teams of all statures against each other. The World Cup isn't the only platform where the smaller teams test themselves against the big ones.
The International Cricket Council does neither. On the one hand, we are led to believe that efforts are on to globalise the game. The process has been on for many years, and, today, it is true that countries like Spain, Isle of Man, Ghana, Norway, Suriname and Greece do play in ICC-run tournaments. A few levels above these countries are Afghanistan, Ireland and Zimbabwe, with Bangladesh yet another level higher. But do any of these countries, having hardly tested themselves against the Australias and Indias of the world, deserve to be in the World Cup?
Sure, the ICC is trying to popularise cricket beyond its limited confines; but is the World Cup the right platform to do that? The smaller teams - even if they do cause the odd upset - caused the 2007 World Cup to go on for 47 days and the 2011 edition to run for 43.
The World T20 2012 will go on for 20 days when, with the eight best teams in the fray, even a roundrobin format, followed by two semifinals and a final, (adding up to 31 matches), with two rest days could have been hosted in 19 days if two matches were to be held every day during the first round.
Think about it. In the first four days of the ongoing World Twenty20 (between September 18 and September 21), we have seen one of Zimbabwe, Ireland, Afghanistan and Bangladesh in action in every match. Six matches were played. In the format recommended, every match would have featured one of the top eight teams.
It gets worse when you realise that Zimbabwe and Afghanistan, poorer than Bangladesh and Ireland, were not even given a fair deal. They played both their matches and went home before West Indies or Pakistan - two of the pre-tournament favourites - got to play their first games.
Also, all the six matches in question were played out before the first weekend. This clearly means that the organisers realise - as they should - that Afghanistan and Zimbabwe are unlikely to win any matches or draw in the viewers.
So let's send them home quickly and get the more exciting stuff lined up for the weekend. The last bit does make sense - commercially - but it also indicates double standards. On the one hand, small teams need to play the big tournaments, and on the other, they shouldn't really tamper with the weekend viewership.
In the end, a World Cup must be treated as such. Teams must earn their places in it, and not walk in as token participants. Otherwise, what's the point?