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ICC considers expanding T20 World Cup to 20 teams

Change of attitude from governing body with shorter form seen as vehicle for growth

George Dobell
George Dobell
West Indies beat England in the most recent T20 World Cup in India five years ago  •  ICC/Getty Images

West Indies beat England in the most recent T20 World Cup in India five years ago  •  ICC/Getty Images

The T20 World Cup could be increased to include 20 teams as part of the ICC's attempts to develop the game globally.
While the 2021 tournament, currently scheduled to be played in India, will still feature 16 teams, ESPNcricinfo understands there are plans to increase that number from the 2024 edition. Current thinking suggests that version of the event will feature four groups of five teams in its opening phase.
The ICC has long seen the T20 format as a vehicle for the game's expansion and there has been previous talk of such an expansion. The ICC have already confirmed their plans to increase the number of teams in their women's competitions.
But the move sustains a notably more inclusive recent approach from the ICC across formats. This is also likely to involve an increased number of teams (from 10 to 14) in the 50-over World Cup, a more positive attitude towards participation in the Olympics and talk of a return of the Intercontinental Cup (albeit with a different name).
It is, perhaps, the move to increasing the number of teams in the 50-over World Cup which provides the most revealing insight into the changing mood of the ICC. In recent years, the ICC cut the number of teams in the 50-over World Cup (from 16 in 2007, to 14 in 2011 and 2015 and 10 in 2019) arguing that broadcasters preferred the streamlined format with the probability of fewer one-sided games.
There is, however, understood to be a growing appreciation of the need to balance long-term global development with the monetary value of short-term broadcast deals. It may be relevant, too, that since the powers of the 'Big Three' were rolled back in 2017, the influence of other nations has grown.
All these subjects have been discussed in recent Chief Executives' Committee (CEC) meetings and, though no firm decisions have been taken, there has been a notably more positive appreciation of the benefits of this expansion from the more powerful Full Member countries. Indeed, it is understood that the subject of the Olympics was raised at a recent CEC meeting by the ECB's Tom Harrison. The BCCI have also recently signalled their desire for involvement, albeit with the caveat that they will not tolerate interference from the Indian Olympic Association.
The Intercontinental Cup has, in the past, provided an opportunity for Associate ICC nations to play a good standard of first-class cricket. It is likely, however, that the revamped tournament, which will almost certainly carry a different name, might provide opportunities for at least some of those nations to play more Test cricket. That could well mean more nations being permitted to play the format and might effectively introduce a second division in Test cricket.
A return of cricket to the Olympics would provide a financial and publicity boost to areas of the global game which have traditionally struggled for both. While the most influential ICC Full Members have, in the past, resisted such a move as it would reduce their window for bilateral series, there is a growing appreciation of the benefits of inclusion in the event. An ICC sub-committee has been set up and will report back to the CEC. Ian Watmore, the ECB chair, is on the sub-committee and is known to be a supporter of cricket's inclusion in principle, believing it will help develop both the men's and women's game globally.
As a result, there is a growing likelihood of inclusion in the 2032 event (which is likely to be held in Brisbane) and a possibility of a bid for the 2028 version (which is scheduled to be held in LA). The number of teams involved and the version of the game to be used remain undecided, though there is growing support for exploring the T10 version, which would probably allow more nations to be involved and enable the event to be included within the small window available.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo