Associate teams back as ICC makes 2015 World Cup U-turn

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.”

‘RIGHT DECISION’
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.

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