With organisers expecting more than a million spectators to attend the 49 games, to be held in 44 days at 14 venues across New Zealand and Australia from Saturday, the 11th World Cup is all set for some high voltage encounters. India’s fanatical cricket fans are hoping for an encore from the Men in Blue. The heroics of Dhoni and his men on tailor-made wickets four years back are just a distant memory. Far away from the frenzy around India and other strong contenders like Australia or South Africa, the four associate member nations Ireland, Scotland, Afghanistan and UAE, find themselves in a queer position.
Of these countries, Afghanistan is set for its World Cup debut following a remarkable journey where cricket balls and bats replaced guns and rockets. The next World Cup is being trimmed from 14 teams to 10, and only the top eight ranked teams are guaranteed a spot in 2019. With 10 full member nations (Test playing nations) playing each other fairly regularly prior to the qualification cut-off in 2017, it’s likely that the next World Cup will consist entirely of full member nations.
Afghanistan and Ireland (currently ranked 11th and 12th, respectively, in ICC ODI world rankings) will not have enough ODIs to mount a challenge on eighth place and a guaranteed spot in the tournament. ICC’s attitude to anyone who isn’t a Test playing nation is bad. Teams like The Netherlands, Namibia and Kenya played in World Cups, impressed a little, and then disappeared. The same happened with teams like Nepal, which played in the last World T20.’ Not playing in World Cups would not be such a huge a problem if associate members were given the chance to play against full member nations on a regular basis. Even ICC chief executive David Richardson recently admitted it is difficult to guarantee Ireland and Afghanistan enough matches to boost their ranking points to challenge the top eight.