One-sided cricket matches are here to stay. Why would you attend?

World cricket is in a parlous state, not in terms of the money it makes, but in terms of the contests it provides. The games are one-sided to the extent that patrons at the grounds are few and far-between.

There is no better illustration of this than in the ongoing Australian games, where the home team is playing New Zealand and the West Indies in three Tests apiece. The first Test against New Zealand was won convincingly, and the second looks like going the same route. As to the West Indies, they are not expected to last beyond four days in each of the three Tests.

The man who is responsible for this farcical outcome, where Tests are mostly one-sided, died recently. Jagmohan Dalmiya was the one who set in motion these unending Test matches, where cricket goes on round the year, and the same bunch of players have to play, and play and play. Dalmiya’s so-called Test championship was set in motion after he became head of the ICC with the help of Australia and England. His first attempt to become the chief of the ICC in 1996 failed, thwarted by England and Australia with support from New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies. England and Australia insisted that candidates needed the support of at least two thirds of the ICC’s full members, the nine Test-playing countries. Dalmiya was backed by Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, and also 19 of the 22 associate members. Test-playing countries have two votes against one for associate members.

In the 1996 poll, Dalmiya obtained 25 votes against 13 for Australia’s Malcolm Grey in the first ballot. A third candidate Krish Mackerdhuj from South Africa withdrew. But at the second ballot, five of the Test-playing nations supported Grey and with South Africa abstaining, Dalmiya was shut out. The ICC then decided that incumbent chairman Sir Clyde Walcott would continue for another year until July 1997.

But in 1997, Dalmiya cut a deal with Grey that he would be the next ICC head if Dalmiya was given the reins, and he ascended to the throne. Dalmiya is from the Marwari community which is known for its business acumen. He is also a Bengali.

Thus it was not surprising that he managed to give Bangladesh full Test status soon after he became ICC chief. At that time, Kenya had a much better team. Bangladesh is the eastern part of the Indian state of West Bengal, which became a part of Pakistan at partition in 1947 due to its majority Muslim population, and finally a separate nation in 1971 after a war.

Dalmiya’s other interest was to make money for the ICC. Hence the future Test tours programme where every nation had to play every other nation at least once in a certain cycle. Points were awarded and rankings created.

But the standard of the game, apart from contests between a few countries, dropped like a stone. Players are human beings and get tired, in body, mind and spirit by playing too often. Apart from the Tests there have been countless one-day series and also Twenty20 games. Each country has been interested in organising games that result in more income; India and Pakistan, for example, still capitalise on the age-old enmity between their countries and try to play whenever possible. Due to political tensions, that has not been possible in recent times.

Dalmiya was later embroiled in a TV rights controversy and had to leave his ICC post in 2000. But he has hovered around, being in the Indian cricket board or the Calcutta cricket board and was head of the Indian board when he died.

Nobody has done a thing to try and rectify the abnormal amount of cricket being played. Money is the sole criterion and while countries have to adhere to the ICC-mandated timetable, they organise other games which will bring in money as and when they like. The players could complain, but the money keeps them from doing so. But then they cannot perform like trained monkeys and the quality of the games is very low.

Australians normally turn out in large numbers for cricket in summer. This year, the crowds are poor, very poor. New Zealand played before 1373 spectators on the final day of the first Test and 6608 on day four, when the contest was still open, though the target set favoured Australia. It does not look very good at the second Test either with 13,593 attending on day one and 10,047 on day two.

Let’s be clear about one thing: national cricket bodies do not need crowds to make money. That is already done through TV deals. Not a single spectator needs to come through the gates for the books to be in the black.

But is that all the game is about? It is on life support now, with few, if any, Tests going to the fifth day, and big wins for one team all the time. People are losing interest and that is a dangerous sign.

All Blacks keep their calm – and the World Cup

In the end, just the points that Dan Carter scored off his boot would have sufficed for New Zealand to beat Australia in the final of the Rugby World Cup. The final scoreline was 34-17 and Carter got 19 of those 34 points.

One of the truly great standoffs world rugby has seen, Carter only missed one kick on the night; he converted four penalties, kicked a drop-goal and converted two of the three tries that the All Blacks scored. It was a truly mature performance, with the No 10 kicking astutely, defending with great courage and never panicking when it looked like Australia were getting close to levelling the scores. (He has played better games; for instance, in the second Test against the British and Irish Lions in 2005, he scored more than 30 points as New Zealand won 48-18.)

The period when Australia came close lasted eight minutes; from 21-3, Australia pulled back to 21-17, scoring two tries while All Blacks fullback Ben Smith was in the bin for upending Australian winger Drew Mitchell. But Carter kicked a drop-goal in the 70th minute to push the lead out to a converted try. Two minutes later he followed it up with a penalty, to make the margin 10 points.

At that point, New Zealand knew they were safe. Scoring once in the last eight minutes is not rare. But twice, against a team of the All Blacks’ calibre – well, that is something else again.

Some things became apparent during the final and the tournament overall:

Top pros can let the nerves take over

Ben Smith, normally a man with great presence of mind, had two moments in the final he would like to forget. One was early in the first half when, with his team ahead 3-0, he fumbled a ball just outside his own 22 and knocked on. Australia got a penalty from the resultant scrum and levelled the scores.

Then, early in the second half, Smith had a brain-fade when Drew Mitchell hove dangerously close to the line and lifted the winger’s legs well above the horizontal while making a tackle. The effect of the tackle was mitigated to some extent because the two were not alone; there were a couple of players who made the impact less.

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen then decided to move Smith to the wing and brought in Beauden Barrett to man the last line of defence. Smith played much better after he returned from the sin-bin, and created New Zealand’s last try, collecting the ball when Mitchell knocked on close to the All Blacks line and punting it ahead for Barrett to chase and touch down.

Nigel Owens is not the best referee in the world

Ahead of the final, there was a story in the media that New Zealand tended to be victorious against Australia in Tests when Owens was officiating. The Welshman may have had this at the back of his mind for there were several decisions against Australia which were very soft. Australian prop Sekope Kepu made a late tackle on Carter without bothering to use his arms; it was just a shoulder charge. Owens awarded only a penalty. Kepu then got Carter in a high tackle, and with this being a second offence, should have been sent off the field. But Owens again awarded a penalty. Kepu indulged himself with two more high tackles against other players, but neither Owens nor the television match official were paying attention. Owens also missed a high tackle made by Jerome Kaino on David Pocock.

Wayne Barnes does not know how to tell a forward pass

In the 2007 tournament, the Englishman awarded France a try against New Zealand from a blatant forward pass, not even bothering to check with the linesman. New Zealand lost that game by two points. This time, Barnes was mercifully not the referee, he was one of the linesmen. But when he was called upon by Owens to judge whether a pass from All Blacks winger Nehe Milner-Skudder to Kaino on the wing was forward — even a blind man would have noticed that it was indeed miles forward — he said that the pass was fine. Moments after Kaino collected the ball and got involved in a ruck, New Zealand were awarded a penalty that Carter put through to increase their lead to 9-6.

Fully fit players must play in big games

Israel Folau was a pale shadow of his normal self at fullback. It was obvious that he was functioning at less than 50 per cent due to an ankle problem. Yet Australia’s replacements are not of the best quality, so he had to play. Unlike New Zealand, the subs in Australia’s squad are not as good as the first 15.

New Zealand’s depth of talent is truly remarkable

Which other country can bring people like Sonny Bill Williams and Barrett off the bench? Williams makes the most incredible offloads and Barrett, though a new addition to the team, has talent to burn. The country has just a tad over four million people but the rugby assembly line does not look like it will dry up anytime soon. That was evident during the last World Cup when Carter was ruled out due to injury; his spot was taken by Aaron Cruden. When Cruden twisted his ankle, on came Colin Slade. And when he went down injured, Stephen Donald was called up – and kicked the winning penalty during the final.

Australia does not even have one decent rugby commentator

Some guy named Gordon Bray — very apt surname, that — has been the commentator for donkey’s years. He is truly awful. The ex-players who join him at the mike are even worse. New Zealand’s Grant Nisbett, in sharp contrast, is a class act.