Anger as 10-team World Cup not up for debate
For the 95 Associate and Affiliate members of the ICC, the most significant part of the recent annual conference was what was not announced. There was no formal discussion of the format of the next two World Cups, effectively confirming that the 2019 and 2023 tournaments will be three days longer than the 2015 edition but reduced to ten teams.
"The only information that I've had from the 'Big Three' was that it was extremely difficult to unpick the TV rights and to change things," Ross McCollom, chairman of Cricket Ireland, said in reference to the takeover by India, England and Australia. The ICC's broadcasting deal with Star Sports, agreed last October, guaranteed India nine games in the 2019 and 2023 World Cups.
Scotland captain Preston Mommsen has made clear his disgust at the attitude of England who, as hosts of the 2019 tournament and a prime mover in restructuring the governing body, were critical to the ICC's decision-making.
Giles Clarke, the ECB president, is known to be a strong supporter of the move; a senior ICC source recently described him as "hell bent" on a 10-team World Cup. The ECB chose not to explain its stance.
"There is anger at what I'm reading about the ECB and their input into this ICC meeting," Mommsen said. "That's going to make me and my Associate colleagues very angry that they've taken such a selfish and narrow-minded approach to the entire decision-making process. It's very short-sighted and not good for the growth of the global game."
He added that the proximity of leading Associates to England made the possibility that none would qualify for the 2019 World Cup "a serious missed opportunity".
"I don't think they have any right to call it a World Cup," Mommsen said. "It's completely regressive when you compare it to other global sports. It's beyond belief that this is actually happening in 2015.
"The idea and dream of playing in a World Cup is what inspired me to try and play for Scotland. I'm sure it was the carrot for many current and past Scottish players to play the game."
Mommsen fears that the reduction in teams for the World Cup will "significantly impact upon the younger generation. It's going to be even more of a challenge now for Cricket Scotland to keep growing the sport."
Mommsen even suggested that "taking that to a higher body is something that I have no doubt will be looked at by the top Associate nations". In 2011, there was talk of Associate nations challenging the original plans to make the 2015 World Cup ten teams in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, although this time there is at least the prospect of a qualifying tournament for the last two spots.
His frustration is exacerbated by the performance of the Associates in the 2015 World Cup, and the support Martin Crowe, Kumar Sangakkara, Sachin Tendulkar and many others gave to their presence.
"It's probably the best tournament that Associates have had," Mommsen said. "The ICC could actually take a lot of credit for all their hard work but instead of embracing that instead that they've decided to take away all the hard work.
"It would be good to know the facts of why this decision has been made. Clearly money is a huge factor but that can't be the only factor," Mommsen said, arguing that the ICC could make far more money in the long run by displaying a more inclusive attitude. "The deal is short sighted in terms of markets that could be tapped into in the longer term. If you gave other countries the chance to a) take part and b) try and take part that opens the door."
While less withering than Mommsen, Willie Donald, the acting chief executive of Cricket Scotland, was also exasperated by the news. "If England haven't supported wider access to the World Cup then that is unfortunate," he said. "We share the disappointment of the other associates."
Donald suggested that there was a "bipolar situation" in the ICC, contrasting the genuine efforts made to expand cricket with "the decision to corner the market".
Niall O'Brien, who has played in all three World Cups in Ireland's history, said that "we wouldn't be where we are now" if Ireland hadn't participated in the 2007 World Cup, which was a 16-team tournament. "If that's not as possible for a young lad now they may well choose a different sport."
"All the other sports are expanding their World Cups and we don't see why we should be shrinking ours," he said. "It's gut-wrenching. It's just a bit sad that potentially Ireland have played in their last World Cup."
O'Brien added that it was "very strange" that the 2019 World Cup qualifier will be in Bangladesh, while the 2023 World Cup qualifier has been awarded to Zimbabwe. "The ICC obviously don't want a Full Member to miss out on the tournament," he said. The previous World Cup qualifier was in New Zealand, replicating the conditions in the main tournament.
But McCollom suggested that Ireland had not yet completely given up hope that the decision to contract the World Cup might be reversed. "It's not like they've never changed decisions before so we'll always live in hope that they might see the light and change their minds," he said. "The quote that they're trying to use is a bigger, better global game but reducing the size of the World Cup doesn't back up what they're saying."
While Ireland have led the opposition to previous ICC decisions, they have been comparatively less vociferous in opposing the steps taken to reduce the World Cup, reflecting their hope that the new ODI 12-team structure will lead to more fixtures.
McCollom conceded that it had been "extremely frustrating" trying to secure games against Test nations but added, "there is traction happening". It is understood that Ireland hope to host both Sri Lanka and Pakistan for two-match ODI series in 2016; they are also likely to play a triangular series with Afghanistan in Zimbabwe this October, with the same three teams playing in a tri-series in Ireland next year.
Tim Anderson, the ICC's well-respected head of global development, last week asserted that Associate cricket was "in a much better place now than say it was six or 12 months ago" despite the World Cup decision.
However, it is far from clear that Associates themselves agree. "I'm not even sure we're in an equal place - we're in a new place and a different place," Donald said.
Tim Cutler, the chief executive of Hong Kong, was also not convinced. "With the World T20 now out to four years and the reduction in World Cup teams I would have to say the assertion that there are now more opportunities for Associates and Affiliates isn't entirely accurate," he said. "It's quite a bitter pill to swallow."
Cutler also argued for cricket to strongly consider making a push for Olympic status, something staunchly opposed by England and India. "Perhaps a sixes tournament in the Olympics could be the shop window opportunity for us to showcase our great sport without compromising media deals," he said. "Even the cynics cannot deny that the potential of national investment in new markets like China is appealing."
Based on the example of rugby sevens, the Chinese Cricket Association would expect to receive $20 million a year from the Chinese government if cricket was included in the Olympics. They currently receive only $30,000 a year from the ICC.
Tim Wigmore is a freelance journalist and author of Second XI: Cricket in its Outposts