Irish strike a blow for associates ahead of 2019 revamp

Irish strike a blow for associates ahead of 2019 revamp

Ireland`s World Cup victory over West Indies on Monday was the kind of giant-killing that lights up any tournament but cricket fans should enjoy it while they can ahead of format changes for the 2019 version of the event. 

It is the third straight tournament that Ireland have turned over one of the 10 "full members" of the International Cricket Council that play test matches and occupy the upper echelons of cricket`s ranking system.

Ireland are one of four "associate members" with Scotland, United Arab Emirates and debutants Afghanistan in the 14-strong field at the tournament but in 2019 only 10 teams will take part, the top eight in the rankings and two qualifiers.

The problem with the current format, according to its many critics, is that the first month of the tournament is played out merely to confirm the top eight in the rankings as the quarter-finalists.

"It`s almost easy, barring the odd upset or someone really having a bad tournament, you can almost predict who the top eight will be," former India skipper Rahul Dravid told ESPN Cricinfo in January.

Ireland may yet throw another hefty spanner or two into those works but from 2019 they will have to battle it out with the lower ranked full members and the other associate members just to get to the tournament in England and Wales.

Depending on the results from the qualifying tournament in Bangladesh in 2018, the next World Cup might go ahead without a single associate member. 

Striking the balance between encouraging nations where the sport is growing and enduring a string of unsightly one-sided results in the early rounds can be tough.

Some, like former South Africa skipper Graeme Smith, favour investing heavily to allow the developing nations to grow in strength until they are ready to play at the top level. 

Up to that point, he believes, they can only detract from what should be the showpiece event for the game. 

"I feel that tournaments like the World T20 and Champions Trophy will be an opportune time to give these nations the chance to play," he said.

"I think throwing them into an event like this every four years is a bit hit-and-miss and takes away from what is an iconic event for cricket."

Ireland skipper William Porterfield, you can be certain, would disagree and on Monday he suggested tearing up the whole system of "full" and "associate" members altogether.

"I don`t see why a team has to be an associate and a team has to be a full member," he told reporters in Nelson.

"It`s like sure you`re ranked or whatever. It`s not like that in any other sport, so I don`t see why it has to be like that in ours."

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