Mommsen calls for rethink over World Cup qualifying path, venues
Scotland captain Preston Mommsen has called on the ICC to have a rethink about the venue of the qualifying tournament for the 50-over World Cup in 2019. Mommsen believes the qualifying tournament should be held in the same country as the main event.
Currently, the top eight teams in the ODI rankings will automatically qualify for the World Cup in England, while teams below them will vie for two other slots, to be decided via a qualifying tournament set to be held in Bangladesh in 2018. Bangladesh are currently ranked seventh in ODIs, 10 points ahead of Pakistan and 11 ahead of West Indies, but could conceivably lie outside the top eight by the cut-off date of September 30, 2017 and end up having to play the qualifiers.
"If you're having a World Cup in a particular country, I think that qualifying tournament needs to be in that country," Mommsen said, after his side's eight-wicket win over Hong Kong at the World T20. "There's huge alarm bells ringing about the 50-over World Cup coming up, and the qualifying tournament quite conveniently held in Bangladesh when the World Cup is in England. So that makes absolutely no sense at all, and that seriously needs to be readdressed before that tournament takes place."
On Thursday, after Scotland's loss to Zimbabwe ended their hopes of reaching the Super 10 stage of the World T20, Mommsen had criticised the format of the tournament. Asked what he felt his ideal format was, he said teams that had already qualified for the tournament ought not to have to play another round among themselves before facing the higher-ranked teams.
"I think if you're having a qualifying tournament for a World Cup, then it needs to be a qualifying tournament, not a qualifying tournament for another qualifier. I think that's unfair. Within this qualifier [in India] we've played against two teams that we've played in the qualifying tournament. So that doesn't really make logical sense.
"If you're talking specifically about Twenty20, I think the qualifying tournament that we held in Scotland and Ireland was brilliant. I think it showed off the Associates, showed the skill that was on display, and I think TV numbers were pretty good for that, social media numbers were pretty good for that, and so I think that was a very good event. However, the qualifiers need to go straight into [the World T20 main draw]. If it needs to be a 16-team tournament, then so be it."
Mommsen is one of a number of Associate voices that have asked for more opportunities to play against higher-ranked opposition and grow as cricket teams via increased exposure. On Saturday morning, ahead of the win over Hong Kong, he had tweeted that he was "bamboozled" by the views of Harsha Bhogle, the popular TV commentator, on the issue.
Bhogle, alluding to the comments made by Mommsen and other Associate representatives regarding a lack of competitive fixtures against Full Members outside of global tournaments, tweeted a string of comments on the issue including one which stated: "You can either moan about how little you have or you can make the most of whatever you have. For the hungry, opportunity resides everywhere."
Mommsen said he was "deeply offended" by Bhogle's views, calling them "pretty poor".
"I was incredibly surprised when I saw that tweet by Harsha," Mommsen said. "I admire Harsha as one of the great commentators of the game. I think he has a responsibility as an ambassador for the game to ensure that he is promoting the right things within the game, and I was deeply offended by what he was trying to say.
"He was trying to be over-philosophical about things, and I think other cricketers around the world have been offended by that. I don't want to make this about that. We have exchanged messages and I think he's trying to say that he was implying something else. I'm not sure how much I buy that though."
Scotland's win over Hong Kong was their first at a world event, in 21 matches, and though it came in a dead rubber, Mommsen said it was an important moment for Scottish cricket.
"It's a very good feeling," he said. "Bittersweet in many ways, the way this campaign has gone, but at the end of the day we've crossed the line for the first time and it's a very important moment for Scottish cricket, and we'll take a huge amount from today. Monkey off the back, and yeah, time to look forward."
Looking ahead, Mommsen hoped Scotland's presence in, and performance during, the World T20 would increase the following for cricket in the country.
"As I've said, it's a momentous occasion, this is a huge step forward for us, and hopefully we've gained some more followers back home in Scotland through this campaign. Hopefully the exposure's been there. Regrettably we're not going further, and having another month on TV is huge, that's invaluable. We will lose out there. However, hopefully we've done enough to gain some more support back home to encourage a few more kids, the next generation, and hopefully people have bought into us.
"But as I've said previously, Scottish cricket is in a very strong position, and we've got a very good squad. Unfortunately we couldn't deliver on the park through this campaign but we have shown glimpses of what we're capable of, and we'll keep fighting over the next 12 months, the next 24 months, we'll keep fighting. I'll tell you what, we are hungry, that's what I think we are, and we'll keep being hungry whenever we get an opportunity."
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo