Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain, believes the World Cup will be a better event without the weaker Associate nations, but hopes the ICC's decision doesn't hurt the development of the game around the world. The ICC has decided the next World Cup will feature only ten teams, and the Associates will have to use the World Twenty20 as their major chance for exposure to the top level. They have not yet revealed what the qualification for the 50-over World Cup will be.
It's a move that has understandably angered plenty of the Associates, who have also received support from leading players such as Graeme Swann, AB de Villiers and Shaun Tait. However, Kenya's capitulation for 69 against New Zealand, and Canada's struggle to contain Sri Lanka on Sunday highlighted one of the problems of adding the less competitive teams to the tournament, according to Ponting.
"That's a tough question, for the sheer fact that you need to be bringing some of these smaller nations on in the world of cricket," Ponting said when asked if the Associates should play in the World Cup. "We all want to see the game develop and blossom in different countries around the world. I've always been a bit unsure if World Cups and Champions Trophies are the right place to do that.
"The major reason for that is I'm not sure how much a lot of the teams actually learn when they're getting hammered like they tend to do in a lot of those contests. It would probably be a better tournament if there were fewer teams, but we understand the responsibility for the game to continue to grow around the world as well."
Ponting's Australian side will meet Canada and Kenya in the group stage this year, while Netherlands and Ireland are the Associates in the other group. One thing the ICC's decision has done is give the minnows something to prove during the current World Cup.
"It is so important for us to put out strong performances and show everyone, including the ICC, how much progress the Associates have made and send further strong messages to all that we are competing," Netherlands coach Peter Drinnen said. "We beat Bangladesh last year. We have beaten a full member in the shorter version [England at the 2009 World Twenty20]; other Associates have beaten full members. Whether we win or lose as long as the performances are there people can see the amount of progress we have made in the last three to five years with the introduction of the high performance programme."
Drinnen added his name to the growing list of players and coaches who think the move to restrict the number of teams will be bad for the game. "The gains [of playing against full members] are significant," he said. "So it is so important that we keep getting those opportunities as that only enhances our development and increases our progress. To have those opportunities taken away, obviously, is going to be detrimental."
The 2015 World Cup will be held in Australia and New Zealand. The last time the tournament was hosted there, in 1992, was also the last time there were no Associates that took part.