14-team format 'good news' for hong kong
Hong Kong and other leading associate members can continue to dream the dream after the International Cricket Council (ICC) reversed its decision to limit the 2015 World Cup to the 10 full members and reinstated the 14-team format used at this year's showpiece won by India.
The ICC executive board, which is meeting in Hong Kong, has given the green light for the continued presence of four associate members at the head table, going back on a decision taken just two months ago to make the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand a top-tier event only.
But it is understood the ICC will extract its pound of flesh: the ICC World Twenty20 next year will be cut from 16 teams to 12, which could mean room for only two associates.
'It is 14 for the World Cup [50 overs] and this is great news for Hong Kong,' said Hong Kong Cricket Association secretary John Cribbin, who represents the associate member countries on the ICC chief executives committee which on Monday recommended a qualifying process to the executive board.
'They haven't gone into detail how the qualifying will work, but I assume they will stick to the system which was in place,' said Cribbin, referring to the World Cricket League qualifying format.
The decision, which will be officially announced at the end of the five-day conference tomorrow, will give fresh hope to Hong Kong who now stand a chance of playing in the final World Cup qualifying tournament in 2013 in Scotland.
An overjoyed HKCA president Shahzada Saleem said: 'This is not to say we will be playing at the World Cup, but at least the guys have a chance and can dream. This is what matters in sport.'
It also guarantees Hong Kong annual funding of US$350,000 until 2013 as part of the ICC's high-performance programme.
Hong Kong are in the ICC World Cricket League Division Two and, along with the United Arab Emirates, Namibia and Papua New Guinea, could join the top six associate members in Division One - Ireland, Afghanistan, Canada, the Netherlands, Kenya and Scotland - to decide which four teams progress through to the 2015 World Cup. That is if the ICC keeps the same qualifying format used for this year's World Cup.
The ICC said in a statement: 'The Executive Board opted to retain the 14-team format that was used at the highly successful and universally acclaimed ICC World Cup 2011.'
Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom hailed the about-turn.
'The initial reaction is probably just one of relief to be honest with you, relief that we now have the opportunity to qualify for the World Cup and relief that we can now devote our energy to actually trying to qualify for it,' Deutrom said.
Ireland, Canada, the Netherlands and Kenya participated in this year's World Cup. Ireland stunned the world by defeating England.
The widespread feeling is that in return for four berths at the World Cup, the associate members are expected to support a move to scrap the rotation policy for appointing the ICC president and vice-president in 2014.
It will be the turn of Pakistan and Bangladesh to provide the leadership to the world governing body that year, but there is a move, believed to be instigated by India and England, to do away with the tradition of the full members taking turns every two years. Former head of the Board of Control for Cricket in India Sharad Pawar is the incumbent president and will make way for his vice-president, New Zealand's Alan Isaac, next year. Isaac will be at the helm until 2014 when the rotation policy is expected to be ditched.
For this to happen, it will need the approval of eight of the 10 full members, plus another 30 of the 40 associates and affiliates.