The ICC has reversed its decision on excluding Associates from the 2015 World Cup, which will now comprise 14 teams including four Associates as it was in the 2011 edition. The decision to reinstate the Associates, which was taken on the third day of the ICC's annual conference in Hong Kong, is a reversal of the ICC's heavily criticised move to restrict the 2015 tournament to the Full Members.
The ICC has, however, reduced the number of teams in the World Twenty20s in 2012 and 2014 from 16 to 12 (ten Full Members and two Associates).
It also spelled out the qualification process it had announced for the 2019 World Cup; there will be ten teams in the tournament, with the top-eight ranked sides gaining automatic entry and the remaining two spots decided by a new qualification competition. Seen through to the logical process there would, for the first time in World Cup history, be the likelihood of a full member nation being eliminated from the competition before its start.
The decision to exclude Associates from the 2015 edition was made shortly after the 2011 World Cup final. It sparked a wave of protests, especially since Ireland, who are the leading Associate team, had performed creditably in the competition, upsetting England and competing in most of their other games.
Much like what transpired on the opening day of the ICC conference, when the discussion on the FTP and the DRS was pushed over to the next morning due to the intensity of the debate, discussions on Tuesday around the proposed amendment over the appointment of the ICC president were also postponed to Wednesday. At Tuesday's meeting, the first move towards overturning the Executive Board's original plan to restrict the 2015 World Cup to full member nations came from the BCCI.
The decision was welcomed by a "delighted" Warren Deutrom, the Cricket Ireland chief executive. "The board should be greatly commended in the first instance for agreeing to look again at the matter, and then for being courageous enough to review their original decision - that isn't easy," he told ESPNcricinfo. "As for Ireland, we now have to get our heads down and try to qualify for it [2015 World Cup]!" The Executive Board meeting to finalise the Associates involvement in the World Cup stretched on for close to four hours.
The Associates' delight would not have been shared by the hosts Australia and New Zealand, who supported a shorter, sharper format. By cutting the tournament down to 10 teams, the Executive Board had hoped to repeat 1992's most appreciated World Cup format, in which all teams played each other once. Having the main teams playing nine matches each would have sustained interest and been television-friendly.
As far as why the ICC have not gone for a 12-team tournament, the argument was that a 12-team format means the minimum number of matches each team plays is drastically cut down from nine to five. Fourteen is considered a more acceptable figure, particularly for broadcasters, ensuring that ratings stay high and public attention is retained through a month-long event. Also, it is understood that a 12-team format would have involved only three knockout matches, whereas a 14-nation event offers seven high-interest games starting with a quarter-final stage.
After being part of the Associates shutout in April, bringing the number 14 back into the picture has enabled the BCCI to ensure that a big numerical lobby in the full council is on their side going into the rotation issue on Wednesday. Four non-member teams now having a chance to make it through to world cricket's biggest event. For a special resolution to change the ICC Constitution the requirement is for the support of eight Full Members and 38 out of 50 of the full council.
Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo