HONG KONG, (Reuters) – The International Cricket Council (ICC) yesterday retained the 14-team format for the 2015 World Cup, succumbing to pressure from non-test playing nations who will have four representations in the elite 50-overs tournament.
“The ICC Executive Board opted to retain the 14-team format that was used at the highly successful and universally acclaimed ICC Cricket World Cup 2011,” the governing body said in a statement.
The ICC had decided in April to restrict the 2015 tournament, to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, to 10 full members. The move triggered protests from associate teams, most notably Ireland, who stunned England in a Bangalore run-feast to contribute much of the early drama that brought alive the 2011 World Cup hosted jointly by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
The growing resentment prompted ICC President Sharad Pawar to ask the executive board to review the decision and the U-turn was welcomed by Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom.
“The initial reaction is probably just one of relief to be honest with you, relief that we now have the opportunity to qualify for the World Cup and relief that we can now devote our energy to actually trying to qualify for it,” Deutrom told Reuters.
“From the moment the decision was announced, a significant portion of the game’s stakeholders said they felt the decision was completely wrong. There was such a massive weight of opinion, it would have been frankly a surprise if it hadn’t been changed.
“That doesn’t necessarily lessen the kudos that should go to the board for actually reversing the decision… I suppose it’s a moment where it (the ICC) is not necessarily embracing its principles but re-embracing its principles.”
Ireland all-rounder Kevin O’Brien, who scored the fastest ever World Cup century to propel his team to the stunning three-wicket win over England in March, was also pleased with the announcement.
“I think it’s the right decision from ICC, not just for Ireland, but all the other 95 countries who aspire to play in World Cups,” he said in a statement.
“There’s no doubt that it will help spread the game even further, and that’s got to be good for the future of the sport.”
The decision should also inspire teams like Ireland to step up their game and show they belong at the highest level events, the country’s coach and former West Indies international Phil Simmons said.
“We’ve got to show the ICC and the Full Members that we can perform in the final stages. That means reaching semi-finals and finals, not just the occasional shock,” he said in a statement. The 10-team format, however, will be back when England host the 2019 World Cup.
“…the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2019 would be a 10-team event with the top eight in the ICC rankings earning their qualification automatically with the remaining two places being decided by a qualification competition,” the ICC said.
World Twenty20 events in 2012 (Sri Lanka) and 2014 (Bangladesh) will feature 12 teams.