There has recently been much discussion among cricket fans about the International Cricket Council accepting the proposal of reducing the 2019 and 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup to ten teams. This decision has irked some cricket fans to great lengths for valid reasons. As soon as the decision was known an online petition against it emerged which now has nearly 20,000 signatures. The purpose of the petition to the ICC is simple, let the associate and affiliate nations be a part of the World Cup in 2019.
Sachin Tendulkar, considered one of the greatest batsmen in the world if not the greatest, has also condemned this decision. He has called for a 25-team world cup for the future. Similarly, former New Zealand great Martin Crowe has also called for an all-inclusive world cup with 18 teams playing. This decision has not only been censured by former greats of the game, but also those playing currently. Irish batsman Ed Joyce has expressed his disappointment at the decision to reduce the number of teams and has vehemently opposed it.
The Chief Executive Officer of the International Cricket Council David Richardson, however, feels that the World Cup is cricket’s premier event and should be played between evenly matched and competitive teams. These reasons can be refuted by any cricket fan at his fingertips. There have been many instances where the associate nations have not only stood up against full members of the ICC but have also defeated them. There are also many examples of matches where two full nations met but the match was totally dominated by one team.
Other than one match between Australia and New Zealand, no match between the full nations has been an absolute thriller. On the other hand matches between some of the associate teams have been some of the most exciting, for example the match between Afghanistan and Scotland had me glued to the TV. Also, there have been many upsets in the World Cups. Kenya reached the semi-finals of the cricket world cup in 2003, while Pakistan, South Africa, West Indies and England were all eliminated in the group stage. In the 2007 world cup, once again two full members of the ICC which included India and Pakistan failed to make it past the group stage. Once again, an associate member, this time in the form of Ireland qualified for the super sixes stage.
Speaking of Ireland, the associate nation defeated Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup by bowling them all out for 132. Then in the 2011 world cup they conquered the English team after chasing 329 runs with five balls to spare, the highest run chase in any world cup. In the current world cup they decimated West Indies by once again chasing a total exceeding the 300 mark with more than four overs to spare. Still Ed Joyce fears not being able to play in the next world cup because it is not possible to get into the top eight by 2019 which would automatically make them eligible to play in the world cup and because the qualifying round of the tournament will give Bangladesh a home advantage as compared to Ireland.
But what’s keeping all these teams from reaching into the top rankings? Tendulkar has reasons to believe that it has to do with not getting enough matches against the top playing nations in the world. The ICC on the other hand rather than solving the problem is enlarging it. Sri Lanka is an epitome of motivation for the associates; the Lankans won the world cup qualifiers in 1979 and by 1996 had lifted the World Cup trophy. Why can’t other teams like Ireland and Afghanistan that have shown extra-ordinary talent and potential in this world cup attempt to replicate the success of Sri Lanka in world cricket? Why should the ICC take their chance away?
The discrimination must end. Some teams qualify just because of the fact that they have the status of a test playing nation on one hand and the associate teams on the other hand don’t qualify since they don’t get enough opportunity at playing international cricket and improve their game. This is absolutely unjust and unfair for the associate nations. Although Ireland has defeated some of the best teams in the world, they have played only eleven ODI matches since 2011. How can they develop if they are not given the opportunity to play against the better teams? England, a part of the big three, qualified in this world cup just because of their status as a top playing nation but lost four of the five matches it played. Afghanistan which had to qualify for the world cup stands on an equal footing.
Nearly no sporting body in the world has the aim of diminishing the popularity of the sport it governs. The ICC is doing exactly that, it is forestalling the growth of cricket into a truly potential global sport. This would aid in increasing the influence of the big three on the sport even further, even when the big three cannot back themselves up as the unparalleled leaders of the sport. This can be said with utter conviction after the shameful exit of England from the World Cup.
Let’s give the associate teams fair and just opportunities and see if they can turn it into success, as Ayn Rand once very famously wrote ‘’ The ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity.’’ It is the job of the ICC to provide the associate nations with these rungs of opportunities, just as they are available to the full members.