Ireland, Afghanistan in mix for 2019 World Cup
Ireland and Afghanistan have the opportunity to gain direct qualification to the 2019 World Cup if they are among the top-eight ranked ODI sides as of September 30, 2017 after they were grouped with the current Full Members.
The bottom four sides in the rankings-based qualification system for the World Cup - which now includes the ten Full Members, Ireland and Afghanistan - will play in the 10-team World Cup Qualifier in 2018 that will determine the final two teams in the line-up.
It means Afghanistan and Ireland have been withdrawn from the World Cricket League Championship with their places going to Kenya and Nepal who finished third and fourth at the recent WCL Division Two event in Namibia. They will join Hong Kong, Namibia, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Scotland and UAE in the two-year competition, which is scheduled to start in mid-2015.
Alongside the elevation for Ireland and Afghanistan there has also been a promotion and relegation system which will involve the lowest-ranked Associate team in the rankings take on the winner of the WCL Championship to decide which side will take their place in the full rankings table for the next cycle.
ICC chief executive David Richardson said: "Both Afghanistan and Ireland have excelled on and off the field in recent years, and this decision is a critical step forward to the ICC's aim of having more competitive teams in international cricket. The decision also provides even greater context to One-Day International cricket, and provides a fully meritocratic pathway into ICC's Cricket World Cup and Champions Trophy events."
Warren Deutrom, the Cricket Ireland chief executive, said: "We are absolutely delighted with the opportunity to qualify directly to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. Ireland has worked very hard over recent years to prove itself as the leading Associate side and has beaten a number of Full Members over the years.
"We are confident that we can now accelerate our progress as part of this qualification structure with the Full Members, while this is also an excellent boost as we put our finishing touches on our preparations for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015."
However, while this announcement is encouraging for Ireland and Afghanistan there remains a challenge for them to find enough ODIs to make their chance of rising up the table realistic. Since the last World Cup, for example, Ireland have played just 11 ODIs against Full Member teams. There also remains a feeling that teams close to them in the rankings, with the most to lose when it comes to World Cup qualification, will be reluctant to play them and risk losing.
Afghanistan are currently 11th in the ODI rankings and Ireland 12th. Afghanistan are 54 points behind the eighth-placed side, West Indies, and Ireland a further seven behind on 34 points.