Players back Associates for World Cup
Several leading players have added their voices to the debate over the involvement of Associate nations in future World Cups, with England offspinner Graeme Swann asking: "Why would you want to take the world out of the World Cup?"
Under current ICC proposals the Associate nations could be excluded from future World Cups from 2015, when the tournament could be reduced to just 10 teams, but Swann and a number of other cricketers from Test-playing nations interviewed by The Wisden Cricketer disagree with the move. "Yes, of course the emerging nations should stay in it," added Swann. "Shocks can happen."
While a bloated World Cup schedule and a preponderance of one-sided, uneven games in the early stages of the world tournament have drawn criticism in the past, it appears that the players themselves would not like to see the so-called 'minnows' excluded.
"There's no reason why you can't have those teams in the competition," added Australian fast bowler Shaun Tait. "To play against the best players and sides in the world is massive and I wouldn't want to take that away from anyone."
AB de Villiers added that he saw value in the smaller nations' involvement in major tournaments. "It makes it more colourful and it's good for the growth of the game," he said. "Playing on the subcontinent levels things out and they can be harder than the best teams because their bowlers are slower and it makes it tough for batsmen."
Brendon McCullum was not unequivocal in his backing of Associate involvement in the World Cup, but did highlight the potential for smaller nations to inflict embarrassing defeats. "It's great from their perspective that they're there," he said. "Does it diminish the value of the tournament? I'm not entirely sure. They're in at this stage, so we should respect that. It's a little bit scary actually. All you think about is playing the knockouts, winning the big games. But to be part of the big moments you've got to overcome the banana-skin games."
Indian batsman Suresh Raina added that he believed it was only fair that the Associates play in the World Cup as they don't take part in big international series and need some way to learn and improve, and veteran Kenya batsman Steve Tikolo strongly echoed his sentiments.
"The World Cup offers us the chance to test ourselves against the Test nations which we rarely do nowadays," said Tikolo, who was part of Kenyan teams that beat West Indies at the 1996 event and reached the Semi Finals in 2003. "If we can do well, then we can really push our case to have more games against the bigger teams. They're the matches that everyone will judge us by."
The ICC have indicated that they are yet to make a final decision on qualification procedures for the 2015 World Cup and have made the seemingly placatory move of announcing plans to expand the World Twenty20 to 16 teams. "How the 10 members are to be determined is still to be decided," insisted Dave Richardson, the ICC's general manager for cricket. "It could be the full members only but it could be not."