Sydney: The World Cup should be a "shop-window" not "window-dressing" for the game`s emerging nations, International Cricket Council chief executive David Richardson said Thursday.
The ICC has come under fire for plans to reduce the number of teams taking part at the next World Cup, in England in 2019, from 14 teams to 10 -- a move that threatens to freeze out non-Test or Associate member nations from the showpiece one-day event.
However, Richardson -- who in a previous interview with AFP said the decision on the number of teams at the 2019 World Cup could be revisited -- insisted the ICC were committed to the long-term development of Associate cricket.
"To me the debate should be more about what are we doing for Associate member cricket to enable them to qualify for a World Cup, whether it`s an eight-team, 10-team, 12-team 14 or 16-team. I think that`s where we`ve made the most progress," Richardson told reporters at the Sydney Cricket Ground during the World Cup semi-final between Australia and India.
"There was even a suggestion we should have moved to a 10-team event for this tournament. The reason we didn`t is because at that stage we had a glass ceiling.
"You could be Ireland or Afghanistan and you could get to number 11 in the world, you couldn`t get to number ten and you could never really qualify.
"So now we`ve changed that, we`ve allowed Ireland and Afghanistan the opportunity to play in the ODI (one-day international) FTP (Future Tours Programme) -- sure the challenge is going to be be finding them enough fixtures and that`s a real focus we are going to be worrying about over the next couple of years so it`s not just in name that they are part of that FTP, that they really have the fixtures," the former South Africa wicket-keeper added.
"I don`t think it`s the end of the world (going to 10 teams), especially now we`ve broken that glass ceiling for the Associates.
"We want the World Cup to not just be a window-dressing but a shop window for cricket at the highest level. Maybe only 10 (teams) initially, but the idea is to grow it."
Meanwhile Richardson said the ICC might alter fielding restrictions in one-day internationals after a plethora of sixes at this World Cup suggested the balance between bat and ball had swung too heavily in favour of batsmen.
"The cricket committee is going to look at the playing conditions again," Richardson said.
"One of the things we might look at is allowing an extra fielder out of the ring in the last 10 overs... that might be a sensible change."The ICC faced accusations of heavy-handedness after fining both Australia`s Shane Watson and Pakistan`s Wahab Riaz for their verbal confrontation in the quarter-finals.
But Richardson highlighted New Zealand`s thrilling semi-final win over South Africa in the first semi-final in Auckland on Tuesday as an example of how teams could compete aggressively without resorting to `sledging`.
"I think the player behaviour in this tournament has been excellent," Richardson said.
"I thought New Zealand-South Africa was a brilliant example of how you could play attacking, hard cricket and not worry about the man.
"Parts of the Pakistan-Australia match were brilliant in the way the Pakistan bowled with such aggression and the Australian batsmen had to be at their best to survive.
"It was a little bit disappointing later in the game when that foul language was used.
"I think the players are starting to realise, or understand better, where the line is and that we`re not trying to stamp out aggressive play, we`re just trying to stamp out loutish behaviour."