Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo. @gauravkalra75
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Former India captain Rahul Dravid has put his weight behind the continued presence of Associate Nations at the World Cup, as he believes allowing them to participate is "the least cricket can do". Dravid told ESPNcricinfo that he was firm in his opposition to the ICC's decision to reduce the next World Cup, in 2019, to 10 teams, saying that according to him "14 is a pretty good number."
"I favour encouraging Associates to play in this tournament and giving them every single opportunity," Dravid said. "I just know how important this is for the growth of their game to be seen at a World Cup, the games being telecast Live back home in terms of sponsorship, government funding; its so important for them to be a part of this premier event. I think that's the least cricket can do, it's a tournament once in four years to try and encourage as many of them as possible to play. You don't want an inflated tournament, but I've always been of the view that 14 for me was a pretty good number, give everyone a chance."
Although none of the four Associate teams were able to qualify for the quarter-finals, they gave an encouraging account of themselves over the last few weeks. Ireland came the closest to a spot in the last eight, winning three of their six league games, including victories over two Full Members- West Indies and Zimbabwe. Dravid said that while he wasn't surprised by Ireland's improvement, the progress made by first-timers Afghanistan was a "great story" for the game.
"You expect to see a good performance from Ireland every time they come to a World Cup. It was great to see Afghanistan register a win, I think it's a great story as well, great for the game," he said. "We've seen some very good performances from the Associate teams, that's terrific for the tournament. It's nice to see that people have also appreciated those performances, while they haven't played to packed stadiums all the time, there have been a good bunch of their supporters coming in to support their teams."
While Dravid enjoyed watching the Associates in action, he was less enthused by the high-scoring nature of many of the games at the World Cup. In the 42 matches played in the league stage, the 300-run mark has already been crossed 25 times, while teams went past the mark just 17 times at the last World Cup in 2011. The 350-run barrier has already been broken six times, twice as often as the last World Cup, while three scores of 400 or more have been made, a landmark not achieved even once in 2011.
Thirty-five centuries were scored in the league phase, eight more than in 2011. On six occasions already, batsmen have gone past 150, while it was only done twice in 2011.
"There have just been too many high scoring games for my liking, it's one thing I have been disappointed by," Dravid said. "It comes down to the fact that maybe the wickets in Australia have been very good, they've been flat and a lot slower than people have expected."
Dravid believes that the administrators will have to reconsider the rule allowing a maximum of four fielders outside the 30-yard circle once the World Cup is over. In the course of the league stage, 100 or more runs were scored 17 times in the last 10 overs, while that mark was accomplished just six times in 2011. As many as 388 sixes have already been hit, while only 258 were struck during the entire 2011 edition.
"The fact that five fielders have had to be in the ring is something that needs to be looked at. I think it will have to be reconsidered," Dravid said. "There is no doubt that it is putting too much pressure and bowlers have not been able to cope with it. It's leading to these huge scores and I think that's not necessarily good for the game.
"We haven't seen enough close games, what really builds excitement is not really seeing people hit sixes and fours all the time, but what you want to see is a good contest between bat and ball, which would result in a close game. The games have been just too one-sided for me."