Afghanistan coach Andy Moles has no doubts over the thorny issue of the 2019 World Cup and the controversial plan to cut the number of teams from 14 to just 10.
“It’s called the World Cup, and the secret is in the name,” he said.
After Ireland became the last of the four non-Test or Associate nations taking part at the World Cup to bow out of the tournament on Sunday, there were plenty of supporters for Moles’s opinion.
Indeed there has been a chorus of criticism, including major names in the sport such as Sachin Tendulkar and Steve Waugh, regarding plans by the International Cricket Council to reduce the number of teams taking part.
Ireland, long the leading Associate member of the ICC, beat Test teams for the third World Cup in a row.
It says much about Irish cricket that their victories over both the West Indies and Zimbabwe were no longer seen as shocks.
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In the end they were only denied a quarter-final place on net run-rate, with the West Indies scraping through at their expense.
Even in Sunday’s seven-wicket defeat by Pakistan there was a moment for Ireland to savour with captain William Porterfield making a fine hundred.
“I’d love to think it was not our last World Cup game,” said Porterfield.
“I think something has to be done if they (the ICC) want to grow the game.
“If you cut us out of the World Cup then what’s the point really for us to keep going.”
All four Associates taking part at this World Cup — Afghanistan, Ireland, Scotland and the United Arab Emirates — did enough to show how much better they might yet be with more games against top-class opposition in between World Cups.
True there were, as was the case in 2011, some lopsided ‘blow-outs’.
But they didn’t just involve the Associates with England, who in common with the non-Test quartet failed to qualify for the last eight, on the receiving end of thumping defeats by Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
By contrast, the Scots — who didn’t win a match all tournament — made New Zealand sweat when the Black Caps lost seven wickets chasing a victory target of 143.
Meanwhile Afghanistan’s astonishing rise saw them mark their maiden World Cup with a thrilling one-wicket win over Scotland.
Moles, a former opening batsman with English county Warwickshire, compared his side to Sri Lanka who in the course of a 21-year span from their appearance as a non-Test nation at the inaugural World Cup in 1975 went to champions by the time of the 1996 edition.
The likes of Afghanistan pacemen Hamid Hassan and Shapoor Zadran, UAE batsman Shaiman Anwar and Scotland seamer Josh Davey, whose 15 wickets at this World Cup have so far only been bettered by Australia’s Mitchell Starc, all made a name for themselves.
“Where can they test themselves if they can’t test themselves against the best?,” said Moles.
“There’s a certain mystique about the associate nations and I think it would be something that would be lost if they weren’t given the opportunity to do it again.”
In an interview with AFP last month, ICC chief executive David Richardson said: “The question is what do you want the World Cup to be? Do you want it to be a jamboree of world cricket or the pinnacle of the one-day game?”
Richard Done, the high performance manager of the ICC, said he had been encouraged with the competitive performance of the Associate teams.
“It is encouraging to see the competitive performances of the associate members in the World Cup and that the ICC High Performance Programme tours have been an important part in their preparation,” Done told AFP.
Done said the ICC had chalked out a comprehensive programme for the qualifiers to help them compete with the full members.
Last October, Afghanistan and UAE were given an opportunity to play some domestic teams in Australia while Scotland and Ireland were given base camps in New Zealand.
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