Hong Kong anger at U-turn on format for Twenty20 World Cup
The six best teams at the current qualifying tournament in UAE are no longer assured of a place in the showcase finale next year
Top Hong Kong official Mike Walsh has attacked the International Cricket Council's decision to restrict the number of associate members at next year's Twenty20 World Cup in Bangladesh, saying it's sad that the six best teams from the current qualifying tournament in the United Arab Emirates are not assured of a place in the main event.
"I am not surprised [the ICC has moved the goalposts]," said Walsh, the Hong Kong Cricket Association chairman. "It is sad really because while I accept there is obviously a major class difference at the longer forms of the game - 50 overs for instance - when it gets down to Twenty20, the associates have proven they are capable of competing with the best."
The ICC reneged on its promise that the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh next year would be a 16-team tournament - the 10 full members plus six qualifiers from the ongoing 16-team associate member tournament.
Instead, it has introduced a second qualifying stage where the six best teams from the UAE event will come up against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, with the top two teams from this event entering the main tournament.
It could effectively result in no associate member taking part in next year's World Twenty20 event. Last year's showpiece in Sri Lanka included Afghanistan and Ireland in a 12-team tournament, but the new 10-team format could end in Bangladesh and Zimbabwe qualifying and thus shutting the door on the smaller nations.
John Cribbin, HKCA secretary and a representative on the ICC committee, said: "The ICC officially represented next year's tournament as a 16-team event but what will really happen is that it is split into a division one and a division two competition. If Hong Kong qualify as one of the top six teams from UAE, we will play in division two and have to fight our way through by finishing in the top two to earn a berth against the big guns.
"It seems the ICC is not serious about giving associate members an opportunity to play against the best in the world," Cribbin added.
"Next year's World Cup is split into two halves and if Hong Kong do qualify we are certainly not guaranteed a spot against the best."
Hong Kong head coach Charlie Burke said: "We would have loved the opportunity - if we qualify - of coming up against the likes of Australia and England. But I think the ICC has been a little bit clever and structured next year's event in such a fashion that even if we go to Bangladesh, we are not guaranteed a place in the main event."
Associate members at an ICC conference in Hong Kong in 2011 rebelled against the ICC's decision to cut the 2015 World Cup (50 overs) to 10 teams, and four associates were allowed entry.