Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
The ICC has confirmed that the next two World Cups will be 10-team events. The 2015 edition of the premier 50-over tournament will be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, and the 2019 World Cup will be played in England. Haroon Lorgat, the ICC's chief-executive, hinted that the 1992 format could be brought back, wherein all teams play each other in a round-robin league, and the top four make it to the semi-finals.
"We haven't quite started on designing the format," Lorgat said. "I seem to recall that in 1992 it was a 10-team event [nine, in fact], so there is a chance that we might replicate that. That is work that will commence perhaps not long from today [Monday]."
The recently concluded World Cup, which has been universally hailed as a success, featured 14 teams, and the league stage was played in two groups of seven each, with the top eight playing the quarter-finals. The trimming of the event basically means that a team such as Ireland, which brought a lot of value to the two previous World Cups, will not be a part of the next World Cup. To compensate, the World Twenty20 has been expanded to 16 teams, giving six Associate or Affiliate members a chance to play in a premier world event every two years, but no matter how well they perform there, they will not be part of the next 50-over World Cup.
For 2019, though, there will be a qualification competition, the nature of which is yet to be determined. It is likely that the last two places will be up for grabs in that competition. After the 2019 event, a relegation and promotion system will be introduced to the newly conceptualised ODI league. That then will take care of the qualification.
The ratification of this proposal, which has been criticised by all Associates, has drawn strong reaction from Ireland. Cricket Ireland's chief, Warren Deutrom, told ESPNcricinfo: "It's nothing short of outrageous." Lorgat, though, said that the length of the tournament with 14 teams and the ICC's view that 10 is the ideal number of competitors for the 50-over World Cup were the major factors in the decision.
"We have always wanted to try to be as compact as possible," he said. "That is not the only reason why it is a 10-team event. We also believe that in 50-over cricket, there are 10 teams that will make for good competition. That is part of the reason as well."
About Ireland's improvement, Lorgat stayed positive, and also sought credit for their progress over the last two World Cups. "We have got initiatives in place to focus on the development of the game, and more particularly to try and upgrade the standards of play with respect to what we call the high-performing countries," he said.
"We have got a programme in place. I think you ought to credit the fact that the way Ireland is now performing is a consequence of that. Similarly, Netherlands have improved. To some extent you may say that we were disappointed with the way Kenya and Canada have in fact in some respects gone backwards. We do spend a lot of time on the high-performance countries, and going into the next strategic plan we want to bring into play what we call targeted investment, which will further support those sorts of high-performance countries."