The 2019 Cricket World Cup will be an all-Test playing nations affair, with Afghanistan being the only team to be that can be considered as minnows. Unlike the previous editions, this edition will not have a single Associate Team playing. This raises the question of why? Has cricket become a game of a select few? Or is ICC looking from a short-term commercial view? Agreed Associate countries like Canada, Scotland and the others may not have much of a drawing power but the same could be said for a team like Bangladesh in the 90’s - a team which now participates and hosts international tournaments. It was possible because they were given a chance to showcase their talents in the greatest stage of all, the World Cup.
On one hand, ICC is looking at increasing the games popularity and growth to a larger audience in various countries, but the growth will hit a roadblock if Associate nations are not given a chance to perform in the World Cup. What will be their motivation to promote and play the game, if they know that it is highly unlikely for them to get a chance to play in the World Cup?
It is my belief that the smaller cricketing teams or the so-called minnows bring in a certain element of uncertainty and excitement in the tournament. Classic examples being Bangladesh and Ireland knocking out Pakistan & India, respectively in the 2007 World Cup or Kenya reaching the semis of the 2003 edition or beating West Indies in the 1996 edition. Ireland has caused upsets in each of the World Cups that they have appeared in, defeating Zimbabwe & Pakistan in 2007, England in 2011 and West Indies in 2015. All these events played an important part in them getting the Test status. Another team that is known to cause upsets is Kenya. Unfortunately both these teams will not be playing in the 2019 World Cup.
Though these teams are not expected to do much in the tournament, these teams can create situations as mentioned above, that can change the entire dynamics of the tournament.
Why can’t we have a World Cup where, instead of 10 nations playing, we have a World Cup with 16 nations. Give six Associate nations a chance and have four groups of four teams each and the top-two teams qualify for the knockouts. Maybe just maybe, it will make the tournament more interesting.
Hopefully the ICC will review their decision, and we will get to see more nations participate in the 2023 edition. For if not given a chance, we may never know what these nations are capable of.