Qualifying event revives Associate hopes for 2015
The Decision Review System may have grabbed all attention in the first half of the ICC's annual conference in Hong Kong, but June 28 will belong to the little guys: the ICC's Executive Board will revisit its widely condemned decision to shut the doors for the 2015 World Cup on the Associate nations. On Monday, the Chief Executives' Committee recommended to the Board a qualification tournament for 2015, without specifying the number of slots open to the Associates.
There is a possibility that the tournament will feature 14 teams, including four Associates. The only other option being contemplated for the Associates at the moment is a 10-team tournament with the top eight Full Members gaining direct entry. The bottom two teams in the ICC ODI rankings will then go into a play-off with the top four Associates for the two remaining spots.
That is why Warren Deutrom, who had worked with the ICC for five years before his appointment as Cricket Ireland chief, told ESPNcricinfo that in his experience of cricket administration "this is the most important ICC annual conference in terms of what is to be decided about the Associates' interests".
The decision to revisit the Associates snub came as the result of loud protests across the less powerful cricketing nations, leading the ICC President Sharad Pawar to ask the Chief Executive Committtee (CEC) to review the ruling and put it on the conference agenda. It came up for discussion on Monday at a meeting attended by 35 Associates and five Affiliates, and addressed by Pawar. "Your voice has been heard and listened to," he said in his speech. "In life you have to sometimes arrive at consensus and compromise."
The compromise, most of the Associates believe, will be a shot at only two World Cup spots in order to have a shorter and more competitive event. The 2015 World Cup could be made up of a round-robin first leg in which all teams play each other once, the same format as the 1992 World Cup and considered the most challenging. The compensation for the World Cup shut-out was an expansion of the World Twenty20 to 16 teams, giving six Associates / Affiliates a chance to enter a world event every two years. However, it left cricket's smaller nations unsatisfied.
The stretch to 14 teams, some Members believe, is being done to build support for the last major issue for discussion at the conference: scrapping the rotation policy for the appointment of the ICC president.
Pakistan and Bangladesh - the two Members who were to nominate the next candidates for president and vice-president by the rotation system - are opposed to the change. In order to pass a resolution amending the rule about the appointment of the ICC chief, eight of ten Full Members and 38 of 50 Associates will have to vote in favour of the motion. That vote could be swayed by how the World Cup format discussion pans out on Tuesday.
In their informal Monday morning meeting to discuss what arguments could be presented before Pawar, the Associates-Affiliates arrived at two major conclusions. One was asking for a 14-nation World Cup on the basis of ICC ODI rankings and the other making a case for cricket's participation in multi-disciplinary events like the Olympics, Commonwealth and Asian Games. It will said, Pankaj Khimji, the Affiliate representative for Asia, have a direct impact on the funding available smaller cricketing nations. "Should cricket be played at these events, only then can we get governmental funding towards development and not be dependant entirely on the ICC's funds."
Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo