The best since 1992

The World Cup has had its imperfections, but the thrills and spills have reminded us of the virtues of the 50-over game, observes Vic Marks.

This has been the best Cricket World Cup since 1992, although that need not be the source of unadulterated joy. So many of the recent tournaments have been flops. Even the 1996 competition in the sub-continent, which had romantic winners in Sri Lanka, had one or two major glitches: a couple of fixtures in Sri Lanka were abandoned because of security concerns, and there was the small matter of the crowd setting light to the stands in Calcutta when they realised that India were about to be defeated in their semifinal.

There have been no such problems this time. Even the India-Pakistan match in Mohali passed off without a major incident, partly because so many of the seats there were occupied by soldiers. There have been no games abandoned for anything other than rain and there has been very little of that. But there have been the predicted imperfections.

The tournament has lasted far too long. If it were not for the irresistible urge to eke out every last dollar for the television companies, there would surely have been two matches a day to speed up the qualifying process. There were often too long gaps between games, sometimes more than a week. Australia could have popped home for a while after they had defeated New Zealand in Nagpur.

There were also too many teams. The presence of Kenya and Canada benefited no one — not even Kenya and Canada, I suspect — and merely prolonged that interminable qualification process. If we have to endure a succession of meaningless, one-sided matches, better that they should be of 40 overs duration rather than 100. However, the performances of Ireland gave force to the argument that the 2015 tournament may be better off as a 12-team event rather than 10.

The travelling, often on airlines whose schedule was, like Denis Compton's calling, only a basis for negotiation, was burdensome for all involved, yet each host country could be utterly beguiling.

In Bangladesh there was an almost innocent pride and excitement that they were hosting such a major event. Everyone tried to please, even if the attempts of the BBC team to leave the stadium in Chittagong after Bangladesh's victory over England was as frenzied and frightening as anything witnessed by this correspondent in the sub-continent. And the West Indies team bus was stoned after their match in Dhaka. But the perpetrators did say sorry, explaining that they thought the bus contained the Bangladesh team.

In Colombo, by contrast, all was chilled (metaphorically), relaxed and cheerful. Not too many soldiers, not too many body searches and lots of smiling locals having a carnival — or so I'm told. And what of India? How they wanted to win Bollywood-style, with demigod Sachin Tendulkar to the fore. There was an unrelenting desperation that this India side should walk off with the spoils. Even Haroon Lorgat, the International Cricket Council's chief executive, was sucked into the soap opera when defending the choice of Mumbai for the final — it would allow Tendulkar to fulfil his destiny.

Having been here for almost seven weeks, it has been hard to gauge the impact of the tournament among the non-host countries. Have you all been bored by the long interlude between England's matches? Did you forget the tournament was going on? That would be understandable. But in India, with the national side progressing to the final, the appetite for all things cricketing has been insatiable. The TV channels have been pumping out cricketana non-stop. It has been a pundit-fest. Hardly any pundit known to man or beast has failed to appear on a TV screen for some channel or other, arguing the merits of Ravichandran Ashwin v Piyush Chawla, Shoaib Akhtar v Wahab Riaz, Luke Wright v Paul Collingwood (actually, I don't recall that debate but you know what I mean and, by the way, I remain one of the minority not to be summoned to the magic screen that keeps world cricket alive).

In India the tournament has captured the imagination of the public just as vehemently as the Indian Premier League has done in recent years. Every India game has been a sell-out and even those matches not involving the hosts have been well attended. The commercial partners have got their money's worth, so, too, the TV companies, who have been able to hike their advertising rates. So that keeps an awful lot of money men happy. No doubt they will be angling for a two-month competition next time.

Moreover, there has been enough good cricket. We have been reminded of the virtues of the 50-over game, in which there is enough time for delicious fluctuations (please let the English counties take note).

During the qualifying process the tournament was indebted to England. Every one of their qualifying matches was somewhere between absorbing and astonishing. At the astonishing end of the scale was the defeat to Ireland, the tie with India and the victory over South Africa. Then, like a pacemaker on the athletics track, England fell away exhausted, their duty done, once the tournament eventually reached the knockout stages, thereby allowing the serious contenders to come to the fore and fight it out.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2011