David Leggat on sport

David Leggat is a Herald sport writer

David Leggat: Early yawnfest vindicates cut to cup nations

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A week in and events at the World Cup have reinforced the view that trimming the tournament to 10 teams in 2015 is the right move.

And not before time. That said, it's not a decision to be taken with any glee.

The idea of giving the lesser nations an opportunity on the big stage is laudable no matter the sport. But all world championships differ in their makeup and depth of talent.

So it is not comparable to a soccer World Cup where far more teams are competitive, which is not to say they'll win the thing. After all, only eight countries have over 19 editions.

In South Africa last year, take out Portugal's 7-0 tonking of North Korea and only four times did a team concede four goals in a game - and they included Argentina, England and Australia, none of whom would exactly rate as pickles on the global stage. Okay, Argentina anyway ...

Occasionally, there has been a spectacular upset at the Cricket World Cup. Zimbabwe tipping over Australia by 13 runs in 1983 leaps to mind, as does Kenya's 73-run win over the West Indies 13 years later.

But not enough. What is to be learned by the Canadians out of a 210-run flogging from Sri Lanka; or by Kenya, walloped by 205 runs by Pakistan?

These countries have not markedly improved over the years. If they had, more power to them.

That's the rub, and why another way forward with more engagement between the majors and minors must be found. Tours to and from the stronger countries to play first-class sides for starters.

And so we snore through the first fortnight of an already far-too-elongated format.

Of the heavy mob, India and South Africa have made the loudest clearing of the throats so far.

Bangladesh sent India in on the opening night. Big mistake. They eventually made 283 for nine themselves and still lost by 87 runs.

South Africa toyed with the West Indies, who managed to stuff up a highly promising situation with hopeless running and witless batting in their match on Thursday night.

But in lefthander Darren Bravo, they may have found their next real batting talent.

The tournament's most intriguing figure to date? South Africa's Lahore-born legspinner Imran Tahir, hands down.

Cricket's contribution to the old Del Shannon hit The Wanderer (kids, ask your grandparents), he qualified for South Africa only just before the tournament, having plied his cricketing trade around the globe, including three English counties.

Tahir gives it a rip, took four West Indian wickets - they hadn't a clue how to play him - and could prove the most inspired selection of any at the cup.

Of the five hundreds struck before last night, none were at a slower rate than a run a ball which is not as much of a surprise as it might seem.

That's one positive spinoff of the T20 revolution.

Virendar Sehwag's first night splash, 175 off 140 balls, was spectacular, but in its way no more memorable than Ryan ten Doeschate's 119 off 110 deliveries for the Dutch against England.

More ten Doeschate-like performances from the lesser lights would strengthen their hand immeasurably.

But for now the ICC has bolted that stable door.

- NZ Herald

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