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Last Updated:  Friday, 21 February, 2003, 16:49 GMT

Minnows blighting showpiece
By John Murray
BBC Radio Five Live's football commentator at the Cricket World Cup

Nine months ago I was at the football World Cup and now I find myself at cricket's showpiece.

The demands on the broadcaster are the same. Matches to be covered, programmes to be served - air miles to be collected.

There is not much difference in the weather either. Warm and sunny temperatures in the high 70s, although as I write this in Cape Town there is nothing like the humidity there was in Korean cities, like Daegu.

Cape Town, by the way, has gone straight into my personal top five of stunning locations visited.

Rio Ferdinan
England's Rio Ferdinand on beautiful Jeju Island
But then again Jeju Island in Korea was something special too.

The match venues at both tournaments have been memorable.

Korea provided some extraordinary pieces of architectural engineering in which to play football matches.

South Africa have grounds steeped in cricket history.

The Wanderers, a superb arena, Newlands with its Table Mountain backdrop and Centurion with its grassy banks and views across the High Veld.

It has been fascinating to compare the fortunes of the home nations.

I was fortunate to commentate on six of South Korea's seven World Cup matches - an experience I will never forget.

I was also there in Johannesburg when New Zealand beat South Africa and the shock on the faces of the locals was also a sight to behold.

Obviously I expected the matches at this World Cup to be longer than their football counterparts.

But surprise, surprise this week the "contest" I witnessed between Sri Lanka and Canada was a darn sight shorter then the South Korea Spain quarter-final.

Canada rolled over for 36 and Sri Lanka rattled off the runs before the Paarl clock had struck midday.

Table Mountain
Table Mountain provides a dramatic backdrop to the cricket
But that experience goes right to the heart of what I have found to be the fundamental difference between the two World Cups.

Fifa has honed its format and have now got it absolutely right for its showpiece event.

The ICC has got to find a better one.

This World Cup is way too long, there are too many minnows and competitive matches are not round often enough.

It is all very well saying the likes of Kenya, Namibia and Canada will benefit from the experience.

Canada can also point to the fact they beat a fully-fledged Test playing nation in Bangladesh. (Holland are here too of course and if Bangladesh are good enough to be a Test playing nation then I'm a Dutchman).

But these sides should have to prove they are capable of doing what Senegal did to France in Seoul before they are even handed an invitation to come to the party.

In the Far East I always felt the sporting eyes of the world were upon the events unfolding before us.

That's not the case here.

And while I understand there are demands from the TV companies for the sheer volume of games, what will encourage this game to flourish is the best teams playing hard competitive sudden-death cricket against each other.

And that comes down to the format.





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