Bad news for UAE cricket as ICC reduces teams competing in 2019 World Cup

ICC will reduce number of teams to 10 with direct qualifications for the eight Test teams, writes Paul Radley.

Paul Collingwood, the former England captain, centre, is the UAE to coach the cricket team. Pawan Singh / The National
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DUBAI // Mixed messages about cricket’s international expansion – or lack of it – wafted across the ICC Academy at Dubai Sports City yesterday afternoon.

Inside the board room of the governing body’s offices, the administrators were rubber-stamping the qualifying process for a World Cup limited to 10 teams in 2019.

Simultaneously, three coaches the ICC have employed to give specialist tuition to the leading nations beyond cricket’s elite were getting to work on the field outside.

This week it is the UAE who get to benefit from the expert tutelage of Paul Collingwood, Chris Read and Paul Franks.

The three former internationals have been flown in from England to assist with preparations for February’s World Cup.

Ireland, Scotland and Afghanistan will also be able to tap into their expertise here this month.

“The ICC have got specialist coaches in for short periods of time to help the Associate teams and I am delighted to help out,” Collingwood said.

And yet each of these nations have had their chances of a return trip to the World Cup that follows next year’s one severely limited by it being cut down by four teams.

The eight leading sides in the one-day rankings will enter the competition, to be played in England, automatically, while two more will make it via a qualifying tournament.

“The cut-off date for the 10-team ICC Cricket World Cup in 2019 was set for 30 September 2017,” the ICC stated in a press release.

“The top eight ranked sides on that date will automatically qualify, while the ninth and 10th ranked teams will play in the World Cup Qualifier to be held in Bangladesh in 2018.”

Contraction rather than expansion seems to be the prevailing attitude of the sport’s rulers.

At the start of this year an agreement was passed to give greater power, and finances, to just three nations – England, Australia and India.

Now the flagship event of the sport is being shrunk. All of which means the UAE’s current drive for excellence, ahead of their first trip to a World Cup in 18 years, may be an unsustainable exercise.

The national team are in the throes of the most intensive spell of cricket in the sport’s history here, having already played at the World Twenty20 this year.

This month, a training camp sees them residing together in a Dubai hotel, while undergoing specialist training which includes lectures on media management, anti-corruption and anti-doping.

They will arrive in New Zealand in February immeasurably better prepared than ever before, and Ahmed Raza is positive the World Cup does not have to be the end.

“Looking at positive side, the graph of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe has been static, so maybe we could give an upset to them as well,” Raza said of the prospect of qualifying for 2019.

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