West Indies, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and now South Africa, three World Cup winning nations and one nation as good as the other three though they have no World Cup to show, are not posing big threat to the top nations like India, Australia, England and New Zealand.
It's almost as if these eight nations can be divided into two categories based on the quality of cricket they have been putting on display: the former four in one category and the latter four in the other. And this division has not been good for the health of cricket.
The quality of international cricket has degraded with these teams' performances falling drastically. West Indies was the first team to suffer this downfall to be later joined by Sri Lanka and Pakistan creating a group of their kind with the latest entry to the group being that of South Africa. The two major and common reasons for this have been their big guns retiring and not finding proper replacements of them and board politics.
South Africa, unlike any other team, has faced another issue, which is losing potential international regulars to Kolpak deals. This being the scenario, right now in World Cricket, we have only four teams playing good consistent cricket, i.e. the latter group. What this has done is that, it has made cricket predictable and the predictability was there to be seen in the recent ODI World Cup 2019 with everyone, prior to the tournament, predicting the top four teams of the tournament exactly as it turned out to be. In sports, where is the fun if you can predict, right?
In the years gone by, there was no such gap between teams as is the case now. Although Australia was the most dominant team, all the other teams were not too far away from one another. These eight teams were the super eight of World Cricket. Sri Lanka were the runner up of two successive ODI World Cups, 2007 & 2011. Pakistan were the runner up in the 2007 T20I World Cup and the winner of the next edition in 2009 and ended up as one of the semi-finalists in the ODI world cup 2011.
South Africa, as we know are under performers in World events, only going as far as the semi-finals in 2007 & 2015 World Cups, were always a big competition in general. They were the best travelling team in Test cricket till recently. West Indies do not have much to show in formats other than the T20 where they are the only team to have won two World Cup titles. This is because the fall of West Indies in the other two formats had started a lot earlier than the other three teams.
Where there has been questions raised, discussions done, debates held, opinions sought on the survival of Test cricket, no such talks have been heard of as to the survival of the very sport altogether. According to me, cricket, the sport, is under threat. Not only one format.
So then, can a sport sustain itself with only four quality teams?
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