Mumbai: On a day when the minnows or the 'smaller' teams of world cricket received a huge encouragement with new Australian captain Michael Clarke backing their presence in the World Cup, their worst fears were confirmed.
Addressing the media on Monday, the International Cricket Council (ICC) CEO Haroon Lorgat confirmed that the game's governing body, after a meeting of its executive board, was firm in its decision to make the 2015 and the 2019 World Cups into 10-team affairs.
The 2015 World Cup will be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, while the 2019 event will be held in England. Both the tourneys, thus, would be pruned down, considering that the recent tournament had 14 teams and lasted more than a month.
The 2015 event will comprise the existing 10 full members, while spots in the 2019 edition of the Cup will be determined on the basis of qualification. This is certainly a jolt for associate teams like Ireland and Holland, who impressed everyone during the World Cup recently, often punching above their weight. They may have to wait till 2019, probably even longer, to play in the game's premier event.
Lorgat felt that it could be a case of deja vous, as the 2015 event in Australia and New Zealand could repeat the format of 1992, when the Antipodes last hosted the championship.
Nine teams contested a round-robin league and the top four qualified for the semis. "The executive board will take a final decision on the format when it meets in October, but it has reconfirmed that it will be a 10-team competition, a reduction from the current 14 teams. The 1992 tournament was a nine-team tournament and we may replicate that," he said.
Earlier, Clarke, before leaving for Dhaka, where the Aussies will play Bangladesh, said: "I really enjoy seeing the minnow teams getting an opportunity. We've seen throughout this World Cup there were a few upsets where there was some great cricket played." While Clarke's viewpoint came as a breath of fresh air after his predecessor Ricky Ponting openly remarked that there should be a limit to the number of teams in the Cup, the ICC's decision should come as a body blow to cricket in associate nations.
Almost everyone would agree that Ireland, who beat England powered by a brilliant hundred by Kevin O' Brien, played better than a woeful Zimbabwe. Sadly, Zimbabwe, being a full member, will get to play in 2015 automatically, while the Irish will miss out.