The ICC, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to make the 2015 and 2019 World Cups a ten team tournament. As well as this, they've decided to put an end to the qualifiers, thus booting out the associates, and denying them any chance to dine at cricket's top table.
Before I get going on a roll of anger and fury, I should point out that it's pretty obvious that having six minnows was far too many this World Cup. Yes, we had glorious games such as Bangladesh and Ireland beating England, but there were far too many thrashings of the Dutch, Kenyans and Canadians to make their World Cup worthwhile. Probably the fairest idea would have been a 12 team cup, where the non-test playing nations have to earn their way in, but alas this is not the case. The World Cups of 2015 will see no Ireland, Holland, Kenya, Scotland or Afghanistan. It will be the same-old same-old mutually back-scratching closed shop. And it just shouldn't be.
For starters, and in what appears to be a fairly glaring error, the ICC have named the ten teams of the 2015 World Cup, but they are not to be the top ten teams in ODI cricket. As it stands, Ireland are ranked tenth, ahead of Zimbabwe, who will play instead of them at the next World Cup. Zimbabwe (a team who haven't played test cricket for a number of years) will play on the back of their test status in an ODI tournament. Seems odd, doesn't it?
I'll give the ICC a small bit of leeway, and I can kind of see the point to a ten team tournament. Whatever is said about the minnows, a couple of spirited efforts aside, there were more maulings than memorable victories. But putting the format of the World Cup to one side, it doesn't matter if there were 10 teams or 100 teams if there isn't a qualification process. What do the associate teams have to work towards now if there isn't the incentive of a possible World Cup spot for all of their hard work? This whole generation of associate players have suddenly had the relevance of their international futures taken away from them. Previously, they would be playing matches around the world in readiness for the World Cup qualifiers, and once qualification had been reached they could prepare themselves for the challenge of playing the bigger teams. Now, the likes of Ireland, Holland and the rest will be playing each other in meaningless friendlies, with little or nothing at stake.
The Irish cricket team is an obvious case in point. They've managed to get themselves into the top 10 teams in the World, and came very close to some upsets in this World Cup (including memorably beating England, of course). They have a golden generation of talent, with George Dockrell and Paul Stirling joining the experienced Ed Joyce and Trent Johnston, plus other men who shone this World Cup such as the O'Brien brothers, Boyd Rankin and William Porterfield (the man touted as being the best captain at the World Cup). Irish coach Phil Simmons has spent the past few years assembling this team so they'll be able to compete, and beat the established teams. They now won't be able to play World Cup cricket for the next 8 years (at least). What's the point in bringing through young talent or coaching the current crop to make them better? For young cricketers in Ireland, what's the point in practicing and playing cricket, if they won't be able to play in any meaningful matches?
The ICC has a responsibility as the guardians of the game to help nurture and grow cricket in nations which currently aren't playing tests. We've seen at this World Cup just how far cricket has come in some of these places, yet in one fell swoop the ICC have set back cricket to a near fatal level. Don't pretend for one minute that the ICC aren't protecting their interests by doing this. Having only 10 teams would only make the games between the bigger sides more frequent, so as such, the ICC stand to charge more money for the already lucrative TV rights. Instead of making money at the associates expense, the ICC should be investing this money into the infrastructure of cricket in the countries to help them improve. Instead, they've pulled the life-support plug out. What the ICC have done is a scandal - in fact it seems pretty criminal. The decision will deprive these countries of any meaningful cricket any time soon, which will set back nations which were beginning to flourish by decades. As mentioned in Cricket With Balls' post, the cricket world must show some sort of support for the felled associates. While it may not achieve much, the ICC have to know that this simply isn't tolerable.
Email the ICC (firstname.lastname@example.org) or tweet them (twitter.com/cricketicc) to let them know of your displeasure. Make big banners to hang over the pavilion at Lord's. Do whatever. This decision from the ICC is so disgraceful (even for them) that the just cannot get away with it.