ICC Still Can’t Justify World Cup Contraction
The ICC’s continued difficulty in justifying the decision to shrink the 2019 World Cup to just 10 teams remains a hot button topic within the sport.
ICC CEO David Richardson joined Jonathan Agnew on Test Match Special during the tea break on day one of the second Ashes Test at Lords, repeating the previous rhetoric about pulling the best teams together, repeating concerns about the qualification process and reaffirming that Associate members like Ireland and Afghanistan will have their chance at qualifying.
Under the new system, which Richardson stated was agreed before the 2015 World Cup in Australia had even begun, the top eight sides in the ODI rankings as at September 30th 2017 will qualify automatically. The remaining two spots will be determined via a World Cup qualifying tournament in Bangladesh in 2018.
At present, that would see Australia, India, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka, England, Bangladesh and the West Indies safely through; and pit nations like Ireland and Afghanistan – both of whom continue to make strides in their development – against Test playing nations like Pakistan and Zimbabwe.
Despite the Zimbabwean decline (driven largely by the countries internal politics), the Test sides would be heavy favourites to emerge from Bangladesh in 2018 – with the same assertion holding up even if Bangladesh or the West Indies drop outside the hallowed top eight and get drawn in to the qualification tournament.
If the ICC believed the qualification pathway to be a problem, why not address it? Slimming the World Cup down from fourteen teams to ten effectively cuts nations like Ireland off at the knees; and rather than allowing them further opportunity to progress and compete with the Test nations, they may miss out entirely.
For many, the decision smacks of an attempt to maintain the status quo, to continue to support the unhealthy influence India has on the world game and to damage the growth of the sport globally.
There may still be a period of development nations like Ireland, Scotland or even Nepal need to go through to become full members competing in five day Tests – but compromising their participation in the biggest tournament in world cricket does not help them advance, it holds them back.
To compete with the best, they must play the best – something that is not guaranteed by any stretch. England may take on Ireland on what might be seen as a regular basis, but Ireland still struggles to play a dozen ODIs per year, damaging their chances of cracking the ODI Rankings top eight and stunting their development in one swoop.
That the decision can be painted as a positive for the development of cricket on the world stage is mind boggling; that Richardson keeps defending it worrying. Either he’s rolling out the same lines from a script, and in doing so not remaining true to his own beliefs, or he really believes this is the best way forward – either scenario is concerning given the former South African wicket keeper is CEO of the world governing body!
With the revelations in the IPL, and the MCC throwing their weight behind growing calls to see cricket in the Olympics, the ICC’s decision to slim down World Cup participation comes at a time when the game guardians needed to be at their strongest, to demonstrate they are in charge and can guide the game down the right path.
With their continued fumbling around the 2019 World Cup format, they are demonstrating as much leadership as Captain on the receiving end of a 5-0 defeat.
After a period of advancement for the Associate nations, the very body you’d expect to support their development has smacked them down in the most unkind of manners.