Netherlands head coach Ryan Campbell, Scotland captain Kyle Coetzer and Namibia coach Pierre de Bruyn are among the leading voices in Associate cricket who have hailed the ICC’s decision to include more teams in both men’s ODI and T20 World Cups in the 2024-2031 cycle.
Both events will expand by four teams each – the T20 World Cup to 20 teams starting in 2024 and the ODI World Cup to 14 teams beginning in 2027 – thereby guaranteeing that Associate teams will be represented in both global events in the near future.
“The World Cups are meant to be a showcase of our great game, not a showcase of our elitism,” Campbell told ESPNcricinfo on the eve of his side’s opening match in the ODI Super League against Ireland. “The expansion of World Cups will give cricket a chance to thrive worldwide and gives kids in associate countries a chance to be the next world superstar.”
Scotland recorded their first-ever ODI win over England in the summer of 2018, just months after they were cruelly denied a place in the ten-team 2019 World Cup at which England emerged victorious. The contrasting results just a year apart hinted the gap between Associate sides outside the top ten rankings and a world champion side wasn’t as big as perceived.
Former Scotland captain Preston Mommsen retired initially in 2016 – before a brief comeback – blaming it on lack of fixtures. Current Scotland captain Coetzer believes the expansion of teams in both World Cup formats will prevent other players taking a decision similar to Mommsen.
“This will create much more wholesome global events and provide real aspirations for developing nations to continue growing the game,” Coetzer said. “I know from personal experience that a desire to play at global events is a real driving force towards finding the motivation to continue developing through many sacrifices. This is a real positive step in the right direction. It will provide much hope for the next generation of players who will have a greater chance of achieving childhood dreams of playing on the world stage.”
While the news is positive on the limited-overs front, there are still some who feel that more support could be given by the ICC to Associate teams. Namibia coach de Bruyn has been a very outspoken advocate in this regard and he feels Associate countries and leaders should still continue to push for more.
“When the news came out, I was personally very pleased to see the ICC global events and the expansion of that,” de Bruyn said. “The first thing that came to mind was growing the game of cricket and nothing else. Growing the game of cricket not just in Full Member countries like India, Australia and England, but everywhere because I think there’s a mis-perception out there in how much work is put in by ‘no-name’ Associate countries: the groundwork, the pathway work, the development work. It’s excellent and it will be a reward for an extra couple of Associate countries to get on that stage and announce themselves.
“If we’re only going to focus on 10 or 12 countries for the rest of our lives on the global stage, then we might as well just not grow the game in the pathway of Associate cricket. It will be pointless because what is the reward. We’ve had a discussion on red-ball cricket and they’ve already cut that. We still need to continue fighting to get red-ball cricket back in Associate cricket.”
The expected format for the expanded 14-team ODI World Cup will involve two groups of seven teams playing each other followed by a Super Six stage. It means that the likelihood of an Associate team advancing to the second stage is slim. Kenya did so in 2003 – and went on to the semi-final where they lost to India – though they were aided significantly by achieving a walkover win against New Zealand, who refused to travel and play in Nairobi. The reality is that a Super Sixes format could lead to the top three spots in each group being clinched well before the conclusion of the group phase, but de Bruyn says focusing on that would be missing the entire point of including more teams.
“I read people say there will be dead rubbers now and blah blah blah, but that’s so short-sighted because let’s not forget that when Ireland beat England in a World Cup in India [in 2011], what that did for the game and what that did for Irish cricket,” de Bruyn said. “There have been really good cricket matches with these ‘no-name’ teams in World Cups but unfortunately the focus is only on dead rubbers which is sad.
“In rugby union, Japan – which is a ‘no-name’ rugby nation – beat the Springboks [South Africa] in 2015. It is the biggest Rugby World Cup upset in history. They beat the Springboks 34-32. Do you know what that did for rugby in that nation? So for me, it’s important to have a broader view of what this can mean for cricket, not for Full Members but cricket and the game of cricket. I’m really excited that there are four extra spots available in a T20 World Cup.
“If that’s Germany or Uganda or whoever, that’s only going to grow their games and that’s going to be a carrot for everyone now that there’re extra spots to say, ‘Let’s grow the game of cricket within our programs because we’ll be rewarded.’ That’s happened to us already in Namibia. In the space of six months, we gained ODI status and we qualified for a T20 World Cup. It has changed our whole program and changed young players to want to play the game. We’ve experienced it and that’s why I’m so strong about it.”