ICC World Cup 2015 April 6, 2011

Decision 'insular and backward' - Malcolm Speed

The ICC's decision to stage the 2015 World Cup without any provision for Associate members smacks of "insular, backward-looking" attitudes among the game's custodians, former chief Malcolm Speed has said.

The scaling down of the tournament to a 10-team event in 2015, in Australia and New Zealand, without so much as a qualifying tournament for smaller nations, has been met with plenty of opposition. The saddest element of the decision, said Speed, was simply that it reflected a persistent retreat from global gains made earlier in the 21st century.

"I don't have a problem with the 10-team World Cup. I think other formats have been tried and haven't worked, but I do have a problem with the 10 teams qualifying automatically," Speed told ESPNCricinfo. "I would've preferred a system where the last two full-member countries in the one-day rankings are challenged by the top two Associate members, but it seems that's not going to happen.

"It's consistent with the thinking I saw at the executive board towards the end of my tenure, but certainly not with the thinking earlier in my time, when there was a much broader view of the future of world cricket."

Self-interest is a powerful force at any meeting of nations, as Speed discovered to his detriment when his time as CEO was terminated in 2008. While making it clear there were useful voices at work on the ICC executive, Speed said that they did not, in this instance, speak loudest. "The decision strikes me as an insular, parochial decision that just perpetuates the 10 full-member countries, who are actually full members because they are Test-playing countries.

"They're not full members because they're ODI-playing countries, they are chosen because they can sustain Test cricket. But other countries are then excluded from the major one-day tournament, so I think it's a very insular, backward-looking decision."

Speed has just published his memoirs, Sticky Wicket, in which he discusses the politics of World Cups and the mixed blessing of India's dominant position as the unrivalled financial leviathan of the game. "It's the major operational benefit for the game, but it's also the major governance threat," he said of India's power. "It's the sort of opportunity any other sport would gladly welcome, as has cricket, but it brings with it some serious difficulties."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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