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CRICKET WORLD CUP 2003 / WORLD CUP
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Wednesday, 5 March, 2003, 13:15 GMT

Straight bat from Bacher

By Oliver Brett
BBC Sport in Johannesburg

In the exceptionally opulent surroundings of Johannesburg's Summer Place, the World Cup organisers gave their half-term report.

Here, in the Hyde Park area of the city, signs outside the grandest private dwellings warn burglars that armed response units are primed to pounce in seconds.

Behind the neo-Palladian building that is Summer Place itself, impressive fountains and gleaming white stucco balustrades punctuate gardens full of lovingly-tended rose bushes.

It is not exactly typical Johannesburg but it is where the World Cup committee and the International Cricket Council have based themselves for the duration of the tournament.

Summer Place is a venue frequently hired out for the most lavish weddings amongst the richest South African families, but on Wednesday the great unwashed who are the World Cup media were invited in.

" There must be a system whereby if you do well you get credit for that "
Ali Bacher on World Cup rules

And against a backdrop of such tranquil splendour, Dr Ali Bacher fended off a barrage of questions from journalists unconvinced that the group stage of the tournament had proceeded as marvellously as he described it.

Most questions were answered in predictably defensive fashion, though at one point the normally placid Bacher almost lost his cool.

"That's history. The show's got to go on," he replied when asked to ponder the issue of how Zimbabwe and Kenya had their path into the Super 12 made so much easier by England and New Zealand's refusal to play matches there.

He then gave a surprising reason to explain why teams carried forward points garnered from the pool matches into the Super Six stage of the competition.

"In 1996, South Africa were the outstanding team in the World Cup. Then the tournament moved to the quarter-finals, they had one bad game and were out.

"We said there must be a system whereby if you do well you must get credit for that so every pool game has meaning."

Point taken, but World Cups in other sports have always relied heavily on the knockout factor.

Zimbabwe qualified through the back door In football, from the last 16 onwards it is a case of sudden death.

Cricket frequently tries to create its own rules unnecessarily and thereby complicates the issue.

Already many people are saying this tournament is too long and has too many matches.

Bacher is aware of this and is suggesting that in the next World Cup there should be more teams competing, but fewer matches overall because then there could be four separate groups.

He is a big fan of teams like Holland, Namibia and Canada.

"Their participation did not devalue the integrity of this event at all," he said.

"In fact they brought a real freshness to this World Cup."

Many would agree with him.

Canadian plumber Austin Codrington running through the Bangladesh team early on, and Klaas van Noortwijk breaking down in tears after hitting a century for the Dutch three weeks later will be memories to cherish.

What is less plausible is the fact Zimbabwe and Kenya are playing in the latter stages of this tournament.



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Related to this story:

Ticket fears after hosts' exit (05 Mar 03 |  World Cup )
Bacher defends rain policy (04 Mar 03 |  World Cup )



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