'An absolute black day for the sport'
Warren Deutrom, the Cricket Ireland chief executive, has slammed the ICC's decision to trim the next World Cup to just the ten Full Members nations, describing it as "nothing short of outrageous".
The 2015 event in Australia and New Zealand will only include the ten Test-playing nations after the ICC decided against a qualification system for the tournament, which means no chance for the likes of Ireland or Netherlands to earn a place. For 2019 there is the prospect of Associates and Affiliates finding a way back in through qualification, but today's decision has effectively frozen them out of the game's showpiece event for eight years.
The decision, while tough on all the Associate nations, is particularly hard on Ireland, who proved themselves to have been a cut above the rest of the second-tier teams during the 2011 event, with a memorable victory over England in Bangalore to add to their scalping of Pakistan on their World Cup debut in 2007. Though they still finished sixth in Group B, they were more consistently competitive than either Bangladesh or Zimbabwe, the two main beneficiaries of today's ICC's decision.
"The conclusion can only be reached that the decisions made today were based purely on the protection of the existing membership entitlements for Full Members and the commercial imperative that a ten-team event delivers nine guaranteed matches for India and England," Deutrom told ESPNcricinfo. "It's nothing short of outrageous. All of the principles by which a decision should have been made in the first instance - which is what's best for the sport and what's acting in the best interests of all 105 members - have clearly been abandoned today.
"And after such a terrific event, and the wonderful occasion of the final, where the sport was incredible and regarded in such glowing terms around the world, I'm afraid this is an absolute black day for the sport. It's a genuinely awful decision that has been reached."
Scarcely three weeks have elapsed since Ireland were the toast of world cricket, with their successful run-chase against England, led by Kevin O'Brien's record-breaking hundred, destined to remain as one of the abiding memories in World Cup history. Boyd Rankin, one of the players who featured in that game, posted his thoughts on Twitter. "Thanks ICC!! What does Irish cricket got to do?? Shambles!!"
Ireland also fought hard against West Indies and Bangladesh, and Deutrom believed his team had done enough at least to force the ICC into some sort of dialogue. "It's a betrayal of the principles of sport and the principles of meritocracy and a level playing field," he said.
"Surely the principle of sport is that if you are good enough you should have the chance to be involved. You have an Associate member who has been out-ranking a Full Member [Zimbabwe] for most of the last four years, who has got through to the Super Eights of the 2007 World Cup, and who has been genuinely been recognised as having performed even better at this one, yet on the back of those performances it has been seen fit to reduced the number of participants at the World Cup."
Although ICC have offered an expanded World Twenty20 in place of 2015 World Cup places, Deutrom has serious concerns about the impact on the sport below Test level. Part of Ireland's success comes from the generous support of sponsors and sports funding, but without the major prize of a World Cup to aim for, the product could be less valuable.
"It's difficult to expect sponsors to remain on board and the government to continue to offer support when the question they could quite legitimately ask is 'why should we support you when your own sport won't?," he said. "High Performance countries would regard themselves as proper cricket countries who play three forms of the game. The decision here, effectively, is saying the other 95 members out of 105 should go away and concentrate on 20-over cricket."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo