Why the 10-team format of the ICC Cricket World Cup makes sense
Scotland defeat England in a One day International. (2018)
Netherlands defeat England in World T20. (2009 and 2014)
Afghanistan defeat West Indies. (2017)
Sure cricket is getting more competitive and more and more countries are getting closer to the established teams in terms of skills. But as we have seen too often these teams flicker for a while and then follows a series of mediocre performances.
Surely, the ICC, which calls the World Cup as it's flagship event would not want to dilute the quality of the event in the bargain of may be getting one or at the most two surprise results.
The format of 10 teams for the ICC World cup is just about right and this makes sure that most matches would be competitive as the teams are evenly matched. the fact that West Indies and Afghanistan had to go through a very tough qualifying round shows that the bottom two ranked teams will give tough competition to the top eight.
Do they merit what they ask for?
It might sound harsh but the smaller teams have not done themselves any justice with their performances over the years. It is also true that the ICC has probably not done enough to raise the level of the game in many countries, although they do provide funding to the all the associate and affiliate teams.
After Kenya lit up the 1999 World Cup with a memorable win over the West Indies, in the next World Cup they lost all their league matches. And, while they did make it to the semi-final of the 2003 World Cup which was indeed truly commendable, their performance over the next eight years deteriorated so badly that they were stripped off ODI status.
Bangladesh, a country with great passion and enthusiasm for cricket and probably the only country, on evidence, where football has been overtaken by cricket, took a very long time to establish itself as an ODI team and were given Test status too early.
They defeated Pakistan in the 1999 world cup but it was only in 2015 that they have started to realise their potential as a one day team.
What the ICC needs to do is to keep commerce aside and truly provide some real game time opportunities to these smaller countries. recently, after their maiden ODI win over England, Scotland coach Grant Bradburn implored the ICC to provide more fixtures for them, in view of the new FTP cycle that the ICC released.
The plea for more games is not new. Ireland captain William Porterfield too has called for greater fixtures for the lesser ranked teams against top quality sides.
It is true that they may not be commercially viable but the ICC, if it truly wants to be a global game, should take some serious steps. Till then the ICC World Cup with 10 teams is the right way to go.