ICC's World Cup U-turn delights Simmons

Earlier the ICC had said it would limit participation in the 2015 World Cup to only ten Test-playing countries AFP

Dublin, Ireland: Jun 29, 2011

Ireland coach Phil Simmons and his players rejoiced at Tuesday’s decision to reverse controversial plans to bar so-called ‘minnow’ countries from the next World Cup in 2015.

Ireland performed on a par with many of the full member, or Test-playing, nations at this year’s World Cup, including a stunning victory against England in Bangalore.

Ireland were among a number of second-tier sides to voice outrage in April when the International Cricket Council (ICC) said it would limit participation in the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand to the 10 Test-playing countries.

However, the ICC announced on Tuesday that four non-Test playing nations would compete in a 14-team World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 2015, with 10 places going to the Test-playing nations and the second-tier teams having to pre-qualify for the remaining four places.

The ICC also announced the 2019 World Cup would be a scaled-down 10-team event, with the top eight places being awarded to the top-ranked teams and two berths being awarded in a pre-qualifying tournament.

Simmons, a former West Indies batsman, said Ireland now had to take their game to another level.”The real work starts now,” he said in a statement issued by Cricket Ireland (CI).”We’ve got to show the ICC and the Full Members that we can perform in the final stages. That means reaching semi-finals and finals, not just the occasional shock.

“We’ve got to take our cricket to the next level and show we belong as a right at these global events.

“We’ve certainly progressed in recent years, but we have got the potential to grow much further. That’s what I’ll be looking for from this Ireland team in the next four years up to 2015.”

Ireland batsman Kevin O’Brien, who blasted the fastest ever World Cup century in the win over England, added: “I think it’s the right decision from the ICC, not just for Ireland, but all the other 95 countries who aspire to play in World Cups.”

CI chief executive Warren Deutrom, who pushed the Associate case hard in cricket’s corridors of power, said: “Obviously we are relieved with the decision today.”The (ICC) Board should be greatly commended in the first instance for agreeing to look again at the matter, and then for being courageous enough to review their original decision — that isn’t easy.

“We can now get on and focus our energies on more proactive pursuits such as trying to qualify!”

While many observers were dismayed by Ireland’s threatened World Cup exclusion, there was equal concern over the way other second-tier nations performed at this year’s edition, with Kenya, Canada and the Netherlands all struggling.

And that is why the decision to revert back to a 14-team tournament will be met with surprise in some quarters.The ICC also revealed on Tuesday that the next two World Twenty20 tournaments would be reduced back to 12 teams.

The ICC had increased the number to 16, to soften the blow of the Associates being excluded from the 50-over World Cup, but this decision has also now been reversed.