Tougher road to World Cup

Main Stories, Sports

The National – Tuesday, July 5, 2011

HONG KONG: While the ICC’s decision to revert to a 14-nation World Cup has been celebrated by plenty, many of cricket’s minnows are still seething over the shock move to cut four teams from the World Twenty20.
The ICC’s annual conference wrapped up in Hong Kong last week and one of the major talking points was the reversal of a previous ploy to limit the World Cup to the 10 Test-playing full members.
However, ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat admitted it came at the expense of the World Twenty20, a biennial event that was set to feature 16 teams in 2012 but would now be restricted to 12.
Twenty20 is seen as cricket’s best chance to globalise, and the only real chance the game has of becoming a part of the Olympic programme.
Lorgat himself admitted after the meeting that T20 had the best growth prospects and would be the right way to globalise the game.
It makes the outcome all the more baffling for many of the ICC’s Associates and Affiliates.
CricketPNG chief executive officer Bill Leane, who moved a motion at the ICC AGM two years ago to increase the T20 programme for the minnows, was in Hong Kong.
Leane, an Australian who took up his post in Port Moresby in May 2009, is one of many to have been left discontent after the ICC’s latest flip-flop.
“All the (Associate and Affiliate) countries are, in the strongest possible terms, disappointed and requesting review of certainly the T20 decision and asking for the Olympic evaluation to be fast-tracked,” he told AAP.
The PNG national team the Barrmundis, who have improved their ranking at two ICC tournaments this year, will now have to battle harder with other second tier  nations competing for two spots at the T20 World Cup qualifier in Dubai, UAE, this year instead of the intial four slots.
The prospect of the game becoming an Olympic sport opens up a number of income streams for many national cricket boards that currently rely solely on ICC funding.
Leane said it must be treated as a priority.
   “The ICC’s strategic blueprint has been released for 2011 to 2015 and it clearly says that one of the seven platforms is the evaluation of participation in the Olympics,” he said.
“The concern of the associates and affiliates is the speed at which that issue’s been addressed.
“We’re now potentially going to have to wait until 2024, because we’ve missed the deadline for 2020 through all the posturing and slowness of the evaluation.
“Our greatest concern is whether or not it will happen in our lifetime at all?”
Uncertainty over cricket’s Olympic aspirations is nothing new but the ICC’s complete about-turn on T20 cricket certainly is.
Lorgat has hinted associate heads knew nearly three months ago that a return to a 14-team ODI World Cup would come at the expense of places at the World T20.
Leane said there was no consultation.
“There was never any discussion or any indication that we could end up with a tit-for-tat outcome, with less teams in the T20 making up for more teams in the 50-over,” he said.
“I don’t think even the smartest of strategists contemplated this as a potential outcome.”
The cost of keeping those four extra Twenty20 spots for associates is believed to be around A$3 million per event.
As such, money has been mooted as the prime reason for the ICC’s backflip on the World T20 but Leane does not buy it.
“The idea that you can take four countries out of a T20 tournament and put them into a 50-over tournament, and it’s equal, is flawed,” he said. – AAP