What cricket should learn from the World Baseball Classic (but won't)

Baseball recently held its equivalent of a World Cup - the World Baseball Classic - and there is much that cricket should learn from its distant cousin about how to run a World Cup. Of course the ICC being what it is, they probably won't learn anything from it.

1. Big inclusive tournaments are good. The World Baseball Classic had 20 teams for this edition, having previously been a 16-team event. This helps give opportunities to countries where baseball isn't a major sport - Great Britain and the Czech Republic were amongst the first-time participants this time - and also makes the event feel like a real festival of the sport, something sorely missing from recent cricket world cups. 

2. Multiple hosts. Each first round pool in the WBC had a different host and - crucially - a different time zone. Multiple hosts also helps with the festival feel, and the different time zones enables organisers to get clever with scheduling and hold more games each day with minimal overlap. This helps speed up the tournament to avoid it outstaying its welcome - the entire 47 game WBC was over in two weeks, compared with 29 days for the most recent (16 teams, 45 games) men's T20 World Cup.

3. Keep it simple. Also key in keeping the tournament moving was the format - four groups of five followed by quarter finals. No second group stage. It also has the benefit of making the tournament easy to follow. Yes, there ard formats involving repechages, double elimination brackets and the like that make it more likely that the winners will be the best team, but this isn't necessary for a good tournament.

4. Base qualification for the next tournament on performance in the current one. The top four teams in each first round pool at the WBC automatically qualified for the next one. No messing around with rankings. Nice, simple, and has the benefit of reducing the number of potential dead rubber games.

5. Make sure commentators do their research or do enough for them to be informed. Commentators in the tournament would routinely reel off information about players, including their backgrounds and performance in local leagues, even if that league was as low level as the Czech league. Can you imagine Nasser Hussain talking about a Dutch player's peformance in the Topklasse at a cricket World Cup? I doubt it. If a commentator ever finds themselves saying "I don't know much about this guy", someone has failed at their job.

6. Respect and celebrate the underdogs. The coverage of the smaller teams on the official broadcast was always respectful. Good research (as per the previous point) obviously helps here, but so does a general desire to follow what the BBC would call its "Reithian Principles" - to inform, educate and entertain. Whilst the players on the major teams have the star power, there are often more fascinating stories around the underdogs.

7. Less can be more. This was the first WBC since 2017 after a two-year delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The next will be in 2026 following which it will return to a four-year cycle. Unlike cricket where we have three World Cups in the four-year men's cycle, plus the Champions Trophy. The same teams play the same teams again and again between all these events too. Familarity often breeds contempt. This is shown by the fact that the biggest game at a cricket World Cup is always India v Pakistan - the two teams that don't play several times between international events.

Do I expect the ICC to pay heed to any of this? Of course not. But a man can hope.

Major League Cricket

Major League Cricket, the planned T20 league in the USA that is set to play its first season this summer, held its domestic player draft this past week at the Space Center in Houston. Six teams will participate in the inaugural season - Los Angeles Knight Riders, MI New York, San Fransisco Unicorns, Seattle Orcas, Texas Super Kings and Washinton Freedom.

If those team names sound familiar, it's because three of them are named after the IPL franchise that their owners also run. The Seattle team are also owned by an IPL ownership group (the Delhi Capitals) but have opted not to use their IPL identity.

Whilst I have nothing against IPL owners owning teams in different leagues, this consistency in branding is a little grating. Both the UAE and South African franchise leagues that were played for the first time this year have team names in common with their IPL partners. One of the great things about cricket is how it's different in every country, If every league has multiple team names in common, cricket will lose something, in much the same manner as how every English town centre has seemingly the exact same shops in it.

Having team names that have no relevance to the area the team is "representing" also seems odd from a marketing perspective. A locally relevant name can make a difference - nobody wants to feel that their team in a "Major League" is a developmental side for a bigger partner.

The inclusion of Mumbai Indians in the name of the New York franchise is especially puzzling given the loaded nature of the term "Indians" in the US - Clevelands Major League Baseball team recently changed from Indians to Guardians over fears that the name could be seen as racist. Defenders of the name are saying that Mumbai Indians isn't actually in the team name - "It's just MI New York and MI is pronounced My" is their refrain, apparantly expecting nobody to ask any questions beyond that.

Perhaps this is the homogenised world we now live in. Billionaires wanting to mark their territory by slapping their brand on everything they own. But it's a less interesting one.

That may be the least of MLC's problems though - reports came out after the draft that USA Cricket had not yet given it their formal sanctioning, with the ICC advising its member to not issue "No Objection Certificates" to their players for participation in the league until the issue has been resolved.

As long-time US cricket writer Peter Della Penna has often stated - do not assume a cricket league in the US will happen until a ball is actually bowled.


There's a term in the IT industry - vapourware - that refers to software or hardware that has been adveritsed but never becomes available or is repeatedly delayed. The term sometimes gets applied in other industries too, such as the automotive industry.

Perhaps then the Euroslam is the first vapourware cricket league. Launched with a lavish - and bizarre - ceremony in 2019 and set to feature two teams in each of Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands, it has been delayed several times with another postponement announced the other week.

Surely only the terminally naive think that it's still happening? Best plan for a future without it, rather than expect it to happen.