A few years ago, I heard a famous ex-cricketer and present commentator say on TV that the smaller teams needed better schedules so that they could prepare better as and when they were given the opportunity to play against the bigger teams at the global level like the World Cup and the T20 World Cup. A few years down the line, probably in the 2019 World Cup, they will receive even lesser opportunities at the world level with only ten teams in the 50 overs world cups – I am not sure how many teams will be allowed to play in the T20 world cups.
At present, the smaller teams are only playing among themselves in the Intercontinental Cup, which is a first class competition and in the World Cricket Leagues, for limited-over matches. If I am not entirely mistaken, the smaller teams also play limited-over matches among themselves after and before the Intercontinental Cup. All in all, the cricket that they play is primarily between themselves with occasional games against the bigger teams. This has to change if the game of cricket wants to be properly representative and challenge other sports.
The first step towards giving them more chances at the world level would be to have a two-tiered one day league and a similar Twenty20 league involving the top 20 teams of the world. The matches could be played round the year and there could be a provision for the demotion of the bottom placed team in the first division and the winner of the second division can be promoted. Now the question that comes up is how will the league be structured and what would the teams be. Well, in the first division we should have the 10 test teams to start with and in the next division we can have Ireland, the Netherlands, Kenya, Afghanistan, Scotland, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Namibia and two other teams that are placed well on the second rung of ICC’s ODI table.
Each team in both the divisions can play each other on a home and away basis in a year and then the promotion and demotion could be done for the next year on the basis of points accumulated. This way there could be some fierce competition in both the divisions which would make them fantastic prospects for the boards as well as the viewers. I am sure that such leagues will also increase the popularity of the game in the smaller nations especially from the second year when a full member country is slated to play in the second division league.
Right now, I am not concerned with giving them a chance in the tests as first class cricket is a completely different ball game and requires a skill set that comes from playing the form consistently. For the time being, they should be playing in the Intercontinental Cup till the ICC is properly satisfied and sure about their capabilities of playing well in the apex form of the game.