Three logos and a principle
Michael Holding's recent assertion that there were too many teams involved in the 2007 World Cup is understandable. There will, no doubt, be some horrible and embarrassing mismatches in the first round with several minnows being thrashed by hundreds of runs with hours to spare.
But that's just one point of view. What does cricket want for itself in the future? To remain a game in which just eight teams can compete? It's not a very broadminded outlook.
In order to grow the game in any country, money is required. And the easiest way to gather money in sport is to put it on television. So Ireland, Scotland, Holland and Bermuda can offer their sponsors television coverage and, consequently, command a far greater sum of cash.
One day, perhaps, the cricket World Cup will resemble soccer's version with nations like China, Afghanistan and Nepal lining up alongside Australia and South Africa with a genuine chance of producing an upset.
And for those who haven't noticed, the ICC has gone to a great deal of trouble and expense trying to make the minnow nations competitive and to guard against the humiliating thrashings which are so harmful to the image and reputation of the game.
Kepler Wessels, Gary Kirsten and Eric Simons have all been involved in ICC-sponsored training camps during the last year and the leading players from teams like Scotland and Holland have clearly benefitted and improved as cricketers.
The problem with having to televise every game, of course, is that you can't play two or three games on the same day and get the preliminary rounds over and done with as quickly as possible, which is what should happen.
So it takes two and a half weeks to get rid of half the teams who didn't stand a chance in the first place.
But at least they will be a great deal richer and, as a result, hopefully a lot stronger in another four years' time. At least, that's the theory and, while Holding is correct to point out two months is an absurdly bloated time frame for the tournament, there is a laudable theory behind it.
Far less laudable has been the ICC's greed and avarice concerning sponsors in the build-up to the tournament, greed which has cost Cricket South Africa R5 million, a sum which it can ill afford to lose.
Nine months before the tournament began the ICC - or, more accurately, the brokerage they appointed to sell their sponsorship rights, GCC - named Scotiabank as one of their major, global sponsors. Though they paid a great deal of money for the priviledge, Scotiabank have no history of involvement with cricket and merely targeted the 2007 World Cup as a means to open up the Caribbean market.
Their sponsorship immediately undermined long-standing agreements between three of the favourite nations and their national sponsors - Australia with Travelex, New Zealand with National Bank and South Africa with Standard Bank.
All three nations protested but the ICC were adamant that there would be no exceptions - the logos of all three financial institutions could not be be displayed anywhere near the teams, let alone on their playing kit. As far as the ICC were concerned, those relationships were dead for the duration of the tournament and even for a month afterwards.
Standard Bank fought just a little harder than the other two, however.
Or so it would seem. They even contacted the people from Scotiabank to find out what they felt. Turns out they didn't mind if Graeme Smith had 'Standard Bank' tatooed on his forehead. The banks did not share a single market and were not competitors. But the ICC still refused to budge. So Standard Bank crossed their arms and said: 'Fine. We'll see you in court.'
Or words to that effect.
So what did the ICC do? They turned to money, of course. "You can put the Standard Bank logo on the shirt, but not the words," they said. "And that'll cost an extra US$750 000, thank you."
Given that Standard Bank had already spent R25 million on the team, the additional charge (for which there was no precedent) seemed excessive. But Cricket South Africa couldn't risk losing Standard Bank as a major sponsor.
So they paid the extra R5 million.
There is an old saying that every man has his price. In cricket, it seems, so does every principle.