The 2019 World Cup is still some years away considering the fact that we are a couple of years from the 2015 edition itself. Supposed to be staged in England, the tournament will be contested among 10 teams – yes you heard that right! For many this could be a major issue especially for the smaller countries for whom a major chunk of financial assistance from the ICC comes from the participation in this quadrennial tournament as well as being able to qualify for it. The ICC has hinted clearly that there is a possibility that not all test teams may be able to play in that edition.
As of now, the format is such that the 8 highest ranked teams in one day internationals will earn spots straightaway in the tournament and the 2 remaining teams, which could very well be test teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe may have to fight it out against the best associate teams, which would presumably be Afghanistan, UAE, Ireland, Netherlands, Scotland, Kenya, Namibia and Canada. The best part of this format is that it will make for some very captivating matches since only the best will play – and television ratings will also be good given the quality of participants. Even the last two teams, by virtue of earning their spots through a hard fought per-tournament qualifying league, will be expected to put up quite a fight.
Personally speaking, I am in favor of this form of “strength versus strength” but a certain teething question still remains in my mind. The question is if the ICC will be able to give these smaller countries enough opportunities – and by opportunities I mean matches on a consistent basis against the top teams – before the qualifying tournament begins. Normally, these players encounter a standard that is not much higher than theirs. With such paltry preparation will they be equipped to handle the pressure in the main event against the big boys?
Even if they were somehow able to reach the main stage, there still shall be some matches where they will face problems in coping and, since it will be a fairly long group stage, they may feel the heat even more than other teams. The only way out is intense competition at every stage and once again it shall be the responsibility of the ICC to ensure that they are able to prepare themselves to the best of their capabilities.