Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Lara blasts move to curtail World Cup numbers

West Indian great Brian Lara is the first big name to speak out against the International Cricket Council’s decision to reduce the World Cup to 10 teams from 2015.

Ireland are one of 14 teams who will take part in the next finals in Asia, in February and March, but even before it has started the game’s governing body has decided that the line-up for the following world event will be cut by more than a quarter.

As it stands, no matter how well Ireland do this winter — and don’t forget they reached the last eight in their first two world events — their qualification to the 2015 finals will be harder still, if they are to get the chance at all.

Lara, who last played in the 2007 World Cup, speaking on a visit to Bermuda, admits he finds the situation “worrying”.

“I'm not on the administrative side of it, and I'm not too aware of what is going on,” he said. “However I do understand that reducing the World Cup is the situation, and that's going to make life very, very tough for Bermuda and the teams that are playing at just a lower level.

“I thought that the idea was to expand, get cricket out to as many countries as possible, and grow the game. It's a bit worrying to find this situation, but again I don't have all the facts.”

He’s not the only one. But a month after the ICC board ratified the chief executives committee’s recommendations, they have made no attempt to explain their decision save to say it will produce “even more exciting cricket”.

Will there be a qualification tournament for the last two places — nothing more can be expected — or will the 10 full members automatically take part in the event which the ICC has boasted, gives all 105 member countries the chance to take part?

The ICC’s concession to the minnows is to increase the teams in the next World Twenty20 finals, scheduled for Sri Lanka in 2012, from 12 to 16, and until the ICC speak we must assume they are signalling the end of the 50 overs event as their premier competition.

“We need as many countries playing cricket as possible, and I thought with the Twenty20 game coming on board now, a lot of countries would find it much easier to get involved with the game,” added Lara.

“It's the longer version of the game that's difficult, where you can really test your ability, but in the Twenty20, you're going to see countries like Bermuda pulling off surprise victories.”

The 10 full member countries have played in a Champions Trophy tournament bi-annually since 1998. Now it looks as if it could become the World Cup and the Associates, much to Lara’s surprise and their own disgust, are being fobbed off with the fast-food variety of world cricket.

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