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Players and coaches round on ICC Associates decision

Osman Samiuddin in Hambantota

February 19, 2011

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Rizwan Cheema flays one through the off side during his 93, Canada v England, World Cup warm-up match, Fatullah, February 16, 2011
Rizwan Cheema is one of a number of playing lining up to condemn the ICC's decision © Associated Press
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Dissent and criticism of the ICC's decision to cull Associate nations from the 2015 World Cup intensified further on the opening day of the current tournament. Grant Flower, Zimbabwe's batting coach, and Canada's captain Ashish Bagai added their voices to a growing chorus of dissatisfaction that has, if not overshadowed the opening days, then dampened a little the celebratory nature of the occasion.

Already a number of Associate countries, foremost among them Kenya's chief executive Tom Sears, have hit out at the ICC's reaffirmation on Friday of a decision taken in October last year. Afghanistan and Netherlands have also weighed in: "Our players are always motivated but those comments were disappointing," Netherlands team manager Ed van Nierop told AFP.

"I can't see what it does for the global element of the competition by going back down to 10 teams. I guess the proposals for the Twenty20 are a bit of a bonus but the World Cup is still the premier ICC tournament." Notably, Graeme Swann also chipped in, saying the decision had taken the 'world' out of the World Cup.

But on Saturday came the most articulate and extensive questioning from Bagai, ahead of his side's game against Sri Lanka in Hambantota. "The World Cup should involve as much of the world as you possibly can," he said. "It's a shame and very disappointing for players like us who were looking for opportunities to play against the best in the world. That's the only way to improve as cricketers, as nations. It's really going to hold back the growth of the game. If they want to keep it to 10 teams, which they want to do, that's fine, but it's never going to be a global sport that way."

The trade-off, according to the ICC, is that more Associates will be involved in the World Twenty20: the next edition will have 16 teams now, but they have yet to decide how the final ten teams will be selected for the next 50-over world tournament. The recommendation to cut down Associates' participation, incidentally, was reached at the ICC's board meeting in October by a working party made up of David Collier (England), James Sutherland (Australia) and N Srinivasan (India) with no Associate representation, and only Dave Richardson of the ICC.

But the increased T20 participation doesn't tally with the efforts of Associate nations to ultimately push for Test status, the format, Bagai arguing, not ideal for that purpose. "You can see where the ICC is headed and the direction they think cricket is going. It might be a commercial move because T20 sells the best globally. I don't think it's going to help many countries produce top level Test cricketers."

Flower said the decision was a step "backwards", arguing that smaller countries need more exposure, not less, an argument echoed by Bagai. "It's a big challenge to get these games every four years," he said. "By the time we're used to playing these teams the World Cup is over. The only way to play well against them is to keep playing them repeatedly. The boards of the top Associates have asked for more games throughout the four years so we can get some practice against some good quality opposition during the years outside the World Cup."

This is the fourth time Canada - one of four associate teams in this tournament - is participating in the game's showpiece event and the third in succession since 2003. Though they only have a win over Bangladesh to show for that time Bagai believes the country's cricket has built an identity and homegrown base of players that deserves to be showcased more often.

"[The Sahara Cup games between India and Pakistan] did inspire a lot of people in the country," he said. "Back in 2000 we had a lot of new joiners and infrastructure development at that time tremendously helped us. Tournaments like that are always helpful for smaller countries to generate interest and get media involved and generate revenues, which is very important for us. More of those are needed."

On Friday, their Sri Lankan coach Pubudu Dassanayake said the move was a "severe setback". Rizwan Cheema, one of their key players, said the 50-over game was a must for development. "If you want to look at it from another perspective, you have to have competition and give small teams an idea to play against big teams and increase confidence. Otherwise cricket will stay in nine countries. We all aim for Test status because cricket really changes when you get to that level," he told ESPNcricinfo. "It's not a good feeling, because at Associate level we haven't really got anything else to play against big teams."

The most memorable recent Associate performances in the tournament include Kenya's semi-final run in 2003 and Ireland's performances in the 2007 edition.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN EMEA Ltd.

Comments: 68 
Posted by Meety on (February 22, 2011, 7:07 GMT)

@ 5wombats - typical Ponting rant. Get over it. Ponting NEVER actually said he didn't want the Minnows/Associates in the Cup. He said the WC would be "better" without them. Its more his business than yours or anyone else blogging on this website actually!

Posted by bhaskar77 on (February 22, 2011, 0:56 GMT)

Ideally more countries should be able to compete for the WC. Only then will the game's popularity increase. In reality it may be easier to hold the WC in a Davis Cup (tennis) format with brackets including the top-, medium- and bottom-ranked teams (rankings obtained not from official ICC ones but from a year-long league) leading up to quater-finals etc. among the top contenders in each. That way everyone gets a chance, and one does not have to endure these spankings every 4 years.

Posted by Waewick on (February 21, 2011, 21:44 GMT)

So the ICC cut the associates from the 50 Over World Cup but keep them in the 20/20.

It is a continued shame to see the ICC focus solely on money and how to continue to reap the biggest revenue at the expense of developing Cricket around the World.

With all the extra money that the ICC is making it should be helping associate side tour the more established countries even if it only to play state and county sides.

Posted by 5wombats on (February 21, 2011, 21:40 GMT)

The ICC lost any credibility years ago. They don't act in the interests of global cricket and this cull is more evidence of that. This needs to be fought tooth and nail, and I hope the associate countries get their way. Ponting should keep his mouth shut - it's none of his business.

Posted by ruserious on (February 21, 2011, 13:51 GMT)

though its nice to see people are being so spirited about letting Associate countries be part of the World Cup, lets face the reality; seeing minnows getting thrashed is not that entertaining. As mentioned in a lot of articles, they cannot improve through this experience. ICC needs to focus on scheduling games against top countries for the associate countries so that they have a 'real' opportunity to improve. However, there is another component to this process that people are missing out. Money. Cricket has become about money and the Associative countries have to figure out ways to make these matches appealing to their public. No one has figured out how yet but Im sure a good brain storming session could produce ideas that would work well in that particular country.

Posted by crpcarrot on (February 21, 2011, 10:18 GMT)

with jsut 10 teams why do we even need group stages jsut get rid of 2 monre teams and lets go straight to quarter finals. personally a World Cup (that only comes around every 4 years) where the same teams keep playing each other would be boring. can you imagine the rfu reducing the number of countries jsut becasue the best teams absolutely hammer them??

Posted by pritam85b on (February 21, 2011, 8:58 GMT)

If Kenya, Ireland would have got at least 50 % exposure what Bangladesh got in the last 10 yrs then they would have become much better than Bangladesh and would defeat them consistently....

Posted by ssjumbo on (February 21, 2011, 8:38 GMT)

We only have to think about the FIRST EVER match of the world cup in 1975. England 334 and India 132 -3.. Gavaskar's 36 not out in 60 overs. India only beat East Africa in 1975, lost all 3 in 79 including to Sri Lanka , who were considered minnows. Then in 1983, they won the cup. And they are world no 2 and no 1 in money terms. Only solution is to let Canada, Zim, Kenya play regularly against top teams so that they can improve. Appearing straight to world cup from their weekend cricket won't help anyone.

Posted by parirani on (February 21, 2011, 6:24 GMT)

at maximum only top 10 teams should play world-cup matches on round-robin basis. then QF, SF and Final. keep is simple that make some sense ICC!!!

Posted by Rallimjs on (February 21, 2011, 5:44 GMT)

If the world Cup is reduced to 10 Teams then I will stop watching, can you imagine FIFA changing the World cup to 16 Teams? I don't think so, Someone has to come last but you need to have something for the Associate teams to strive for T20 is Fun but it's not the Path to Test Status, ICC should be embracing the associates not pushing them back to the bush tracks for hit and giggle matches. If we push to 10 teams then only the host should be automatic and all others should be made to qualify. if that means and Asian Team misses out then so be it. You can't have your cake and eat it. Host, Americas 2, Africa 2 Europe 2, Asia 2 and Oceania 1 = 10 this is the only logical calculation to encourage growth of international cricket. Or go back to groups of 4 and stop changing it when an Asian Team gets knocked out. apart from the Farcical Final in the 2007 world Cup it should be remembered as the cup when the associates roared. "10 is not the future"

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Osman SamiuddinClose
Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.
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