The ICC has backtracked from its earlier decision to cut short the number of participating teams in the next edition of the World Cup, giving new hope to the Associate nations.
The ICC had announced at the start of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 that the Associate teams would have greater opportunities to participate in the ICC World Twenty20 as compensation for their decision to restrict the fifty overs ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 to the ten Test playing nations. The decision and its timing was a bitter blow to teams like Ireland and Netherlands because while they were geared up to play at the highest level of the sport, that they would not have another opportunity at this level was something they had not banked on. It did put a dampener on things for the Associate nations who fought their way to join the big league players but their spirits only seemed more resolved.
Even as Ireland in particular went onto test a few teams, including handing England a shock defeat courtesy Kevin O’Brien, they knew that a bigger battle awaited them off the field. Indeed it seemed that the ICC had realized that a lengthy World Cup was not in its best interests and with the disparity level in skills, it was going to be a tough proposition to fill the stands. However, the spirited performances of the Associate teams were hard to ignore as also, the fact that the World Cup essentially represented more than just a club of nations, a small clique of self serving teams. In that light, the Associate nations did not give up their fight and now they are in with a fighting chance albeit for one more World Cup edition.
While there is the implication that the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 in England will be a proposition for fewer teams to make the cut, for the immediate agenda, the likes of Ireland, Netherlands, Scotland and their ilk will have the opportunity to stake a place in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 to be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand. The ICC came to the decision to have a fourteen team format after lengthy discussions at its annual conference and at the intervention of the ICC president, Sharad Pawar, on behalf of the Associate Nations at their request.
What this means is that the ICC will have to come to new designs not only to bridge the parity but also, ensure a fairer manner in which the World Cup can be truly inclusive of more nations in the spirit of a world event but not merely showcasing numbers but rather the passion for sport and the determination for glory and ultimate prize. That has not always been the case for the World Cup and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 disaster in the Caribbean may have prompted some rather rash announcements from the ICC. But the spirit of the sport has prevailed. Now comes the difficult part for these teams to really pull up their socks, perform out of their skins and push the barriers of the previously laid boundaries for the sport.