ICC annual conference June 29, 2011

Minnows to protest World T20 ruling

The ICC's decision to slash minnows' representation at the next two World Twenty20 tournaments has sparked outrage among Associate and Affiliate nations, who - after a heated and emotional meeting on Wednesday - have decided to lodge a formal protest at Thursday's full council. The logic of the ICC's decision is further undermined by the fact that the qualification process for the World Twenty20 is already underway - but will now be for just two spots instead of six.

The mood among cricket's less powerful members was in stark contrast to their initial response to the ICC's decision on Tuesday to restore Associate representation in the 50-over World Cup on the one hand while cutting the number of participating teams in the newest format from 16 to 12.

The anger was palpable through the day at the venue of the ICC conference in Hong Kong and in the offices of Associate and Affiliate members. "We will challenge that decision, we won't sit back," Cassim Sulieman, Africa Cricket Association chief executive told ESPNcricinfo. "It's about giving opportunity to everybody and globalising the game. We still have time to work on this and we will."

The 30 Associate and five Affiliate representatives (representing 60 countries) met on Wednesday afternoon and decided to present their objections to the full council. They also asked searching questions of their three representatives (from Bermuda, Singapore and Scotland) who were present at the Executive Board meeting and were party to Tuesday's decision to cut the size of the World T20 field. All of them filed out of their caucus in silence, unwilling to speak formally at length, with one directing queries to the ICC's media office.

Tuesday's decision represented an amazing turnaround in rationale by the ICC; announcing the expansion of the World Twenty20 to 16 teams last September, it said cricket's shortest format made it easier for teams to be competitive. Nine months later, the reduction in numbers is being informally talked of as the trade-off for the four extra berths in the 2015 World Cup. The ICC increased the number of teams for that event to 14, thus reducing their two flagship events into an Indian railway reservation chart for a fixed number of seats.

Adding to the farce is the fact that the qualification process is already underway. It ends with a 16-team competition early next year in the UAE that will feature six automatically qualified teams - Afghanistan, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, Netherlands and Scotland - and 10 regional qualifiers, two each from the Africa, Americas and Europe regions, three from Asia and one from East Asia Pacific.

Those zonal qualifiers are all in their final stages, with each of the five regions left with only one stage to play for their representatives to be decided. Some of the regions, like Africa and Europe, have played qualifiers from the Division Three level, and it's likely that a few teams would have climbed up a long ladder to reach the UAE. After going through two years of qualifying and playing in a format which is largely foreign to them, as these countries usually play 50-over cricket, they now have two chances in 16 of advancing to the main tournament.

"If 16 teams was right for the T20 yesterday morning I fail to see why later the same day it was reduced," Tom Sears, the Kenya cricket chief executive said. "The two events should not be linked but be treated in isolation and on their own merits. Again, in terms of growing the game globally, the Board has taken a huge step backwards with this decision."

Other officials agreed with Sears, with one official present at the meeting pointing to Tuesday's contrary decisions regarding the 50-over and 20-over tournaments being mirrored in the emotions they evoked. "The numbers of those unhappy about the World T20 numbers going down were far more than the numbers of those who were happy yesterday," he said.

Another official simply conveyed the smaller nations' continuing and growing discontent with the ICC. "The ICC always talks about globalisation and says it is a global sport - is cricket a global sport for a small World Cup? Or is it a global sport for a big world?"

The root cause of the inequalities in cricket stem from the ICC's voting pattern, which is different to that in other prominent global sports like football. Each of the ten Full Member nations, and the 35 Associates has one vote each, while the 60 Affiliates are split into groups of twelve, each of which has a single collective vote, adding up to a total of five. According to the Africa Cricket Association Affiliates Report presented to the ICC, they "do not have a direct and proportional voice because 57.15 percent of ICC members are represented by 8.75 in the ICC annual conference."

On Thursday, though, those numbers plan to make their presence felt.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo; Firdose Moonda is the South Africa correspondent