The associate nations have long been a big part of cricket’s finest biggest tournament and have bought about some memorable World Cup moments. So why do the ICC want to get rid of them?
If the ICC stands by their original decision, the 2019 World Cup will take place with just 10 teams. The host nation England will be given an automatic spot, as will Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and West Indies. They will be joined by two others. With the improving standard of cricket of the country, Bangladesh are likely to be one of these teams. Based on their form in this World Cup, that final spot will be fought for by Ireland, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan, but both the UAE and Scotland could have a say. If this is to be the format, the World Cup will be exactly what Ireland’s Ed Joyce said: “A glorified Champions Trophy”.
The associates have been part of some of the tournament’s most exciting games this year: Ireland’s magnificent chase of 307 against the West Indies, the UAE’s 2-wicket defeat in the last over to Ireland, Afghanistan’s 1-wicket win over Scotland and Ireland’s nail biting 5 run win over Zimbabwe. There have been hammerings for the associates: Australia hit a record score against Afghanistan and Chris Gayle hit a double-century against Zimbabwe, but has anyone seen England? By excluding the associates, the World Cup would lose these great moments.
With the cutting of the associates, the World Cup would not only lose some fine matches, but some fine players and individual performances as well. At the 2011 World Cup, Kevin O’Brien played one of the great one-day innings, leading Ireland to a famous win over England with a century off just 50 balls, a World Cup record. Only Kumar Sangakkara has scored more runs at this tournament than Brendan Taylor, who has scored 433 runs for Zimbabwe, and Scotland’s Josh Davey has taken 15 wickets at this tournament, a new World Cup record for an associate player.
This is not the only occasion that the associates are being treated harshly. The associates are still denied the chance to play in test matches. This is having a massive effect on the quality of the associate nations as some of the players slowly give up on the chance of ever playing a test match for their nation. Ireland have seen both Boyd Rankin and Eoin Morgan end their careers with Ireland for the chance to play test cricket for England. The same move was made by Ed Joyce, but he returned to playing for Ireland after an England test career failed to materialise. Brendan Taylor, perhaps one of Zimbabwe’s finest ever batsmen, has recently signed a three-year Kolpak contract at Nottinghamshire, meaning he won’t play for Zimbabwe for those three years.
Even though it is very unlikely that the associate nations will challenge the top teams for the highest honours in the near future, the ICC needs to look at improving the opportunities that they are given, or cricket will turn into a sport for only the very select nations. This change must start with keeping the 14 team structure for the 2019 World Cup.