The ICC World Cup Qualifiers is the qualification tournament for ICC World Cup in 2019. The top seven teams in ICC ODI rankings have qualified for the World Cup along with the hosts, and the remaining two spots are up for grabs.
This is the first time that the World Cup will be hosting just 10 teams. The 2015, 2011, and 2007 edition saw 14 teams take part in the competition.
Ten teams from all around the world will battle it out for the final two spots for the 2019 edition, namely West Indies, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Netherlands, Scotland, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Nepal, and United Arab Emirates.
West Indies, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, and Ireland qualified for the World Cup qualifiers by virtue of being the bottom 4 ranked teams in the ICC ODI rankings.
Netherlands, Scotland, Hong Kong, and Papua New Guinea, qualified for the tournament by virtue of being the top four teams in the ICC World Cricket League Championship which was held between 2015-2017. The final two teams, Nepal and United Arab Emirates, qualified by virtue of being the two finalists of the 2018 ICC World Cricket League Division Two.
Initially, the tournament was supposed to be held in Bangladesh. However, once they were close to direct qualification, the International Cricket Council (ICC) decided that they would change the host nation. Finally, it was decided that the tournament would take place in Zimbabwe.
The ten teams have been divided into two groups, with Group A consisting of Ireland, West Indies, UAE, Papua New Guinea, and Netherlands.
Group B consists of Scotland, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Afghanistan, and Nepal.
The top three teams from each group will move on to the Super Six stage, and the the top two teams from there will qualify for the World Cup.
Two-time World Champions, West Indies, have been going through a rough patch over the past few years. No one would have expected them to be a part of the qualifying tournament, but their poor results, which was due to a large number of factors, forced them down the ICC rankings, thus denying them the chance to automatically qualify for the World Cup.
Jason Holder will continue to lead the side. They will be bolstered with the presence of veterans such as Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels. The other big names in their side include Evin Lewis, Devendra Bishoo, Carlos Brathwaite, Shai Hope, and Kemar Roach.A few other superstars such as Sunil Narine, Dwayne Bravo, and Kieron Pollard are not taking part in the tournament due to their commitment to the Pakistan Super League.
Afghanistan, on the other hand, have been going through an incredible transformation over the past few years. Their hardwork and consistent results paved the way for them to be granted the status of a Test playing nation last year. Rashid Khan, who is the joint no. 1 bowler in the world along with India's Jasprit Bumrah, is leading Afghanistan in the World Cup qualifiers. At the age of 19, he has become the youngest ever captain in international cricket. Mohammad Nabi, too, has become an international star, having taken part in numerous T20 leagues all over the world.
Zimbabwe have been in turmoil for a long time now and are not the team they once were a decade or two ago. However, they showed signs of brilliance last year when they defeated Sri Lanka 3-2 in a five-match ODI series. It was the first away series they had won since 2009 and first time they defeated a Test nation away since 2001. They will be captained by Graeme Craemer and will be bolstered by the presence of stars such as Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor, and Sikandar Raza.
Ireland have been in decent form over the past few years, notching up victories against the other associate nations. They have had memorable moments in the World Cups over the years, having qualifed for the Super 8 stage in 2007, and having defeated rivals England in a nail-biting encounter in Bangalore in 2011. They will be captained by William Porterfield.
The tournament will take place in Zimbabwe between March 4 -25.