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- World Cup match wins meant test status for associated teams, who now won’t get qualifiers
- Even test teams are finding it hard to qualify for leaner cricket world cups lately
- Choice between expanding the reach of cricket or getting sponsors for tournaments
Cricket fans will have to settle for watching just 12 teams compete for the upcoming T20 World Cup. Even test countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will have to compete with 6 associated teams to qualify for the 4 slots, while the 8 best-ranked teams will get free entry.
However, this has not always been the case. The format has been truncated since the 2014 T20 Cricket World Cup, with 16 teams. Even the 50-over format until 2007 had 16 teams, and the number has steadily declined in consecutive World Cups to maintain viewership and sponsorship.
All teams that have achieved the coveted test status in the past 4 decades have achieved it after beating an established opponent in a world cup. Sri Lanka defeated India in the 1979 cricket World Cup, Zimbabwe defeated Australia in the 1983 World Cup, Bangladesh defeated Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup, and Ireland defeated Pakistan, England and the West Indies in consecutive World Cups to achieve test status.
As a member of India’s team that won the World Cup in 2007 T20 World Cup and in 2011 50-over format Cricket World Cup, speedster S Sreesanth is committed to an Olympic format where every country can compete on an equal footing, unlike the current format where only top 8 teams qualify automatically.
However, former Indian cricketer and commentator Atul Wassan thinks otherwise. He supports the current leaner format and points to the World Cup where an Indian team cannot play against Brazil or Argentina.
Citing Kenya, which was unable to gain test status due to a lack of cricket infrastructure despite reaching the semi-finals of the 2003 World Cup, Wassan said it is better to guide teams through qualifiers so only the best of the lot. play India or Australia to keep the competition exciting.
Wassan believes there’s no point in sticking to a stretched-out format that won’t attract the eyeballs, but he advocates infrastructure growth and public interest in the growth of cricket among minnow teams rather than mere world cup exposure.
However, the range of cricket does not seem to be expanding. In the 2016 T20 cricket World Cup, 41 South Asian players were part of the 165 squad members of 11 non-South Asian teams. It not only shows the craze for the gentleman’s game among the South Asian diaspora, but also shows the need to bring the sport to new audiences and new countries.
But there is a glimmer of hope for the associated teams competing for the upcoming World Cup slots. Sreesanth believes that club cricket allows players from non-cricket countries to hone their skills to strengthen their national teams to compete for world championships.
Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands and Namibia have players who have played club cricket for years and stand a chance to show their mettle and expand the reach of the World Cup in the championship starting next month.
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