The number of teams with status to play international T20 cricket will increase drastically from the present 18 to 104. The ICC has approved international status for T20 matches between all of its Associate Members. The decision came after a week of meetings in Kolkata.
"The move, across both men's and women's cricket, is part of the wider strategic aim of using the T20 format to globalise the game," an ICC press release said. "New minimum standards will be introduced, making it as easy as possible for members to play international cricket in a sustainable and affordable way."
This will come into effect for women's cricket as early as 1 July, 2018, while men's cricket will see the change take hold from 1 January, 2019, at the conclusion of the cut-off period to qualify for the 2020 World T20.
Full rankings will be introduced from October 2018 and May 2019 respectively. Until now, the only countries able to play T20 cricket with full international status in addition to the 12 Full Members were Scotland, Netherlands, Nepal, UAE, Hong Kong and Oman. In all the ICC has 92 Associate Members.
Geoff Allardice, ICC's general manager of cricket, told ESPNcricinfo that providing international status would motivate smaller cricketing countries to compete better as the stakes were higher. "The idea of status and rankings is to say to them that the results will count and the results will go towards improving your ranking," Allardice said. "You can show progress in the cricketing world based on your T20I ranking. And in a lot of countries, being able to show improvement on the world stage really carries a lot of weight domestically."
According to Allardice, the decision was taken following fieldwork carried out by a focus group from the ICC's Chief Executives Committee (CEC). "Over the past two to three years the CEC group has been doing a lot of work on the structure of international cricket and being able to create pathways that are aligned with the formats. We are providing incentives for countries to focus on certain formats. At the moment the World T20, with the most available spots, is the format for an emerging country to aspire to."
The most significant practical application of the decision to award international T20 status across the board will be a global qualifying event for the World T20, with members competing "at a global level with a sub-regional, regional and global qualification process every two years". That effectively means all of the ICC's members would have a guaranteed number of T20Is over two-year cycles through the qualifying event.
ICC chief executive David Richardson said: "We are particularly pleased with the unanimous agreement to award all T20 bilateral games international status and the move to create a global ranking system for T20Is. We are committed to growing the game and T20 is the vehicle through which we'll do this, and removing restrictions and having all members ranked is a positive step forward.
"We have already introduced a regional qualification pathway for the ICC World T20 in 2020, which is now underway, and we will continue to evolve our qualification structures across all three formats to enable members to play regular cricket and grow the game."