Sachin Tendulkar has called the ICC's decision to reduce the number of teams in the 2019 World Cup "a backward step" in the global expansion of cricket and described the lack of consistent matches available to Associate sides as "unfair".
Tendulkar, an ambassador for the World Cup on behalf of the ICC, told an audience at an exclusive dinner in Sydney that the ICC should instead be exploring ways to expand the next World Cup to as many as 25 teams.
He also suggested Full Member nations should regularly play their 'A' sides against Associates and strive to provide a "fair platform" for smaller cricketing countries.
"I found out the next World Cup would only be ten teams," said Tendulkar. "Which is slightly disappointing because as a cricketer I want the game to be globalised as much as possible and, according to me, this is a backwards step.
"We've got to find ways of encouraging the lesser teams."
Tendulkar also contradicted the views of ICC chief executive David Richardson, who defended the planned reduction of teams from 14 to 10, by suggesting, "The World Cup itself, the premium event, without exception should be played between teams that are evenly matched and competitive."
Richardson's statement has been widely challenged, with only one match so far between Full Member nations - New Zealand's one-wicket victory over Australia - considered to be competitive. In stark contrast, some of the matches between Associates have provided the most keenly fought contests, Ireland scored a notable result by defeating West Indies and Afghanistan capped off their remarkable rise in qualifying for the World Cup by overcoming Scotland in a final-over thriller.
"The lesser teams have, in each and every World Cup, they always surprise top teams," Tendulkar said. "And they can do it on a consistent basis only if they're given a fair platform to express their talent.
"Right now, they get up after four years on the cricket world's biggest platform and they're expected to play and compete with the likes of Australia, South Africa, India, New Zealand, West Indies, Sri Lanka, so many top sides. It's unfair to them."
Since the 2011 World Cup, Ireland has played only 11 ODIs against Full Member nations and their captain William Porterfield has been joined by his Scotland counterpart - Preston Mommsen - as well as a host of players and officials from both Associate and Full Member sides, in calling for a "level playing field".
An online petition asking the ICC to reverse the decision to cut the number of World Cup teams has, at the time of writing, gathered more than 15,000 signatures.
Tendulkar said he believes cricket's global fan base will only grow if the Associates improve to the level where they can be consistently competitive and he believes the first step is to schedule regular matches against second-string sides from the Full Members nations.
"Why not get Australia A, England A, New Zealand A, South Africa A, New Zealand A, India A, everyone, to go and visit these countries and play them on a regular basis," Tendulkar said. "And see, not just 14 teams, but how can we get to 25 teams participating in the next World Cup?"
"It is not just about the top six or seven sides. If we are to globalise this game we have to get more and more people excited about cricket and the fan following only follows the result.
"If the results are good then you have more fans, so it's important that they play good cricket consistently for a longer period, not just one good performance and then suddenly they go underground for four years and then turn up if they do well in those qualifying rounds.
"So I would say it's something the ICC needs to look into and I hope they look into it."
While calling for an expansion of the World Cup, Tendulkar also spoke about his concerns for the 50-over format and said he had suggested to the ICC about splitting ODIs into two 25-over innings.
"I think Test cricket definitely will survive and T20 is definitely going to survive," he said. "There is a big question mark over one-day cricket because I think it is getting monotonous. I have sort of casually suggested to the ICC that they need to look at the format. Can we change the format a little bit so that it's not predictable?
"Right now when it comes to batting from the 15th over onwards to the 35th over you know exactly how the batters are going to bat and that is something that is possibly boring the spectators.
"Can we change that? Can we look to introduce something that is not quite as predictable, which is slightly out of the box?"
Tendulkar proposed a split-innings format, which he said could encourage more exciting matches and fairer results when games were interrupted by rain. It is the type of format that was trialled during the 2010-11 Australian domestic season when the 45-over Ryobi Cup was split into two innings although the experiment only lasted one season after it was determined the international game would remain at 50 overs.
"I suggested that it be 25 overs and then the other side comes in and they bat 25 overs and then you go back again and bat 25 overs and then you finish the game with 25 overs but in the entire match you have only ten wickets," he said.
"I felt there was a huge disadvantage in certain venues when the sides had to go in second because there is so much dew. Spinners are virtually out of the game and fast bowlers don't get any movement.
"They're bowling straight and the batters are thinking, well, where am I going to hit the next boundary? The game doesn't go ahead like this. We need to find the right balance."
"It just adds to the excitement, whether you want to lose seven wickets in the first 25 overs and score 270 runs because it's going to rain later, or have wickets in hand because later on there's going to be dew and batting's going to be easy and you can attack the bowlers."
When asked about the reaction of the ICC, Tendulkar replied, "They haven't reacted. I'm still waiting."