There’s been a lot of talk of the Associates and their involvement in the World Cup especially considering the ICC’s decision to restrict the next World Cups to the ten Test nations. This is really a 50/50 topic because while yes it is sad that you aren’t growing the game at the same time, for every England v Netherlands match there’s about three one sided New Zealand vs Kenya games. Both Graeme Swann and Ricky Ponting are correct in their opinion of the Associates involvement, Swann arguing that “You’re taking the ‘World’ out of the ‘World Cup’” and Punter rebutting with “Team’s don’t learn anything being hammered by Test nations”. But let’s look at the statistics before we make any harsh judgments on who to keep and who to exclude.
The goal of any cricket player is to play the ultimate and highest form of the game, which is 5-Day Test cricket. However Test status isn’t handed out lightly which is why in November 2009, Cricket Ireland applied to the ICC for Full Membership. While they did finish third in the ICC’s 4-day Intercontinental Cup, they’ve clearly out grown the other Associate nations when it comes to ODIs. In 2010 alone Ireland drew 1-1 in a series against Bangladesh, clean swept the Netherlands 2-0 and took out the ICC World Cricket League. If any of the Associates have earned their place in the World Cup its Ireland.
If cricket was food then the flavour of the month would be Orange. Yes it was impressive seeing ten Doeschate’s knock against the English and yes he’s proved that he’s a world class player with ODI and domestic T20 hundred’s to his name plus a more than impressive First Class high score of 259* but at the end of the day we’re talking about one man here. On the flip side the other Dutch claim to fame is having Herschelle Gibbs smash six sixes off the bowling of Daan van Bunge in World Cup 2007 and conceding the highest ever ODI score (443 by Sri Lanka in 2006). There’s room for improvement for the Netherlands though and their inclusion in England’s County Competition will do them good, especially when you consider that Ireland was the last side the Counties decided to take under their wing. Ireland and Netherlands clearly deserve their place in the World Cup when you compare them to the other Associate nations like UAE, Canada, Namibia, Scotland, Bermuda, Kenya and the USA, but there’s two sides to every story so let’s have a look at the shallow end of the Test Nations.
Yes there’s no surprise that I was going to mention Bangladesh. In ten years of Test cricket they only have three wins out of 68 matches. One in 2005 against a very depleted Zimbabwe team (and that’s saying a lot) and winning their first series against the strike depleted West Indies in 2009. See a pattern here? Sure they’ve recorded one day wins over all of the other Test nations but there have never been consistent performances which really isn’t good enough. Every Test nation has toured Bangladesh and dominated and every time Bangladesh has toured another country they have been dominated. Where’s the improvement? You can sum it all up in the fact that Bangladesh doesn’t really have any rivalries. Australia v Sri Lanka was born out of competitive cricket matches, India v Pakistan was born out of competitive cricket matches and so forth. In comparison you don’t see many people lining up to see India v Bangladesh do you?
To be fair, it’s not really Zimbabwe’s fault. If you ever have the pleasure of watching old Benson & Hedges World Series games on FOXTEL, if you saw Zimbabwe in 1994/95 they were a very becoming a very competitive team. Sadly with the decline of the country as a whole at the start of the 2000’s leading to their good players in one way or another leaving the country, the once promising men in red went from bad to worse and in 2006 had a self imposed exile from Test cricket. I want to stress again that it’s not the cricket teams fault their in decline considering the problems in their homeland but is it really fair to Associate nations like the Netherlands and Ireland or even the rapidly improving Afghanistan that Zimbabwe gets a free pass into the 2015 World Cup and they are stuck playing in the World Cricket League against fringe associate nations like Israel or Germany.
With the 2015 World Cup reduced to ten nations and no Associates in order to improve the standard of the tournament, the ICC have painted themselves into a corner. Cricket is an unpredictable game, and that’s the beauty of it. You will get games where it comes down to the last over, you’ll get games where it’s over in the first powerplay. Will dropping the competing nations guarantee that we won’t see a match where one side gets bowled out for 92 in the first innings? Or will it increase dull matches where say South Africa score 391 in the first innings and then Sri Lanka potter on and bat out 50 overs to only score 220? All I can say is please don’t exclude the minnows.