The Asia Cup – a window to better global events?

The ACC’s Unimoni Asia Cup 2018Ā starts tomorrow. It is a six team, ODI event – including one Associate Member – played over fourteen days. The two teams who contest the final will have played six games, those who do not progress past the pool stage will complete two matches each.

Its format gets the balance just right. It fits nicely into an ever-cramped international schedule (despite some initial concerns as to India’s fixtures), providing a coveted place for one of the Associate Members in Asia while doing its best to present maximum value for broadcasters. Short, sharp, contextual, inclusive. I can’t wait.

Earlier this year, there was a lot of noise about the next ICC Cricket World Cup. Much has already been said, written, and tweeted. The long and short of it is that it is a ten team, single round robin event. After an amazing qualifying tournament, the sport’s current pinnacle event will be without two of its Test nations, nor will it feature an Associate Member.

The ICC has said this format – last utilised in 1992 – was used so that it could squeeze as much money as possible out of the media rights to its 2015-23 global events. These were sold to Star for ~$2bn. The same network also won the tender for the Asia Cups held from 2016-23.Ā 

However, despite having the same network owning its rights, with a deal that was announced only a day after the ICC contract, the ACC have not followed suit – and have employed a six-team, two pool event. Now, “if” a tweaked single round-robin ICC model was employed (let’s say for the Asian Full Members only) it would’ve been:

  • Five-team single round-robin (nine matches / one per day)
  • IPL-style semi-finals (three matches / one per day)
  • Final (13 matches total)

This format would’ve guaranteed each team a minimum of four ODIs with a maximum possible of seven.

Instead, the ACC have included one emerging team and used:

  • Two pools of three single round-robin (six matches / one per day)
  • Top two into a “Super Four” (six matches / two per day)
  • Final (13 matches in total)

Now, this only guaranteed each team a minimum of two ODIs, but in exactly the same number of matches and fewer days, achieved by playing two games per day during the Super Four round, a particular feature in the 20-team World Cup format devised by Russ Degnan:

In this format, the Asia Cricket Council (ACC) has provided a more inclusive Asia Cup than what would’ve been possible with a single-round robin league/cup. To me this provides a better model for not only showcasing the region’s best teams, but also one that recognises the developmental value in providing a berth for an Associate team.

That team, Hong Kong, came through a typical close-fought qualifying tournamentĀ – ironically played at the same time as the 2018 Asian Games; which should have had cricket in itĀ – to snare that sixth spot, winning all three games against the only Asian Associate ODI nations, Nepal & UAE.

The final of the qualifying tournament in Malaysia was produced for Star and broadcast across the world*.Ā 

Furthermore, the last 50 over Asia Cup in 2014 (won by Sri Lanka) had only five teams – the four FMs plus qualifier Afghanistan, who was an Associate at the time. This year sees an additional FM spot for Afghanistan – and the emerging nation place retained.

Big green ticks to ACC.

Conversely, the number of teams awarded ODI status by the ICC has remained at 16 for many years, despite there being two recently-promoted Full Members. Although, a recent media release may indicate this total number “may” be under review by the ICC. Potentially positive news to come.

The matches in the UAE start tomorrow with six consecutive day / night ODIs. Group A includes Hong Kong, India, Pakistan & Group B is Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka.

The top two then from each group form a “Super Four” who play each other once, and the top two will then meet in the final on Friday 28 September, completed a crisp 14-day event.

Star TV – currently owned by Fox, and soon to be handed over to Disney/ESPN – currently holds the rights for the BCCI (including IPL), the ICC, and whose parent also has a controlling stake in Sky, who have the ECB broadcast deal, too.

Not to be outdone, Fox is also the majority partner in Cricket Australia’s new media contract too. I talk about the big three’s deals here.

(Apologies for the extended delay since my last piece – who would’ve thought full time employment would take up so much of my spare time…)

BONUS TITBIT: In partnership with the ECB, the ICC continues to churn out various content for the 2019 World Cup. Ticket ballots, comedians, and seemingly the theme for #CWC19 have all hit our feeds – and there were over 2.5m tickets requested in the lottery-based system. Things have definitely come a very long way since the last time the 50-over global event was hosted in the UK. When teams came from all over the world to play.

And…. COME ON HONG KONG!

*Correction – the original article erroneously stated no matches of 2016 Asia Cup qualifier were broadcast.

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