The ICC has been caught with its fingers in the competition rigging cookie jar.
When they throw a tournament, like a tournament to find the world’s best cricketing nation, they always make sure India and Pakistan end up in the same pool. The rationale being that the most important part of a World contest is ensuring the game with the biggest TV audience takes place.
Yes, that is what it has got to.
What makes it even more disturbing is that there appears to be no surprise or remorse that this is actually going on. “Hey, we fix the draw at our prestige tournaments; what’s wrong with that?” That seems pretty disengaged.
It is best summed up by ICC president Dave Richardson, and this mess of a PR spin. “You can do that in a number of ways. You can go ‘Zig, zag’, you can go like a snake … No doubt we want to try and pit India versus Pakistan in our event. It’s massive around the world, and it’s probably no coincidence the two keep ending up in the same group.”
Zig zag, no coincidence, massive around the world. That is an extraordinary paragraph of cynicism; and delivered as if nothing is actually wrong with that.
In practice, this venal manipulation probably does not make a lot of difference; especially when you compare it to the Super Rugby Conference shambles. But Super Rugby is a political made-for-TV competition involving franchises; this is a World Cup. Even FIFA understands the purity of that event.
The actual impact of this is probably not significant in terms of outcome, but it a uniquely awful look when it comes to a world competition.
As an aside, what has made this particularly lucrative for the ICC is the Pakistan and India do not play bilateral series. When they do get to play it is rare and anticipated. It is called not cooking the Golden Goose; there are lessons to be learned in this from many other sporting organisations.
The real crimes here are the apparent shoulder-shrugging from the ICC and the potential influence it had on the decision to reel back globalisation progress it may have had in the decision to have a 10 team Cricket World Cup in 2019.
As far as symbolism goes that is really, really deflating.