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ICC chief plays defensive shot against renewed World Cup calls

International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Dave Richardson has defended the governing body’s decision to cut its World Cup to 10 teams after further criticism of the move this week.

This year’s tournament in Australia and New Zealand featured 14 teams, with associate nations Ireland, Scotland, Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates competing alongside the 10 full members. However, the ICC last month confirmed that the number of teams taking part in the 2019 and 2023 editions of its showpiece 50-over tournament would be cut to 10 countries.

The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), which acts as the guardian of the laws of the sport, this week urged the ICC to rethink its decision, putting forward a 12-team model instead. The MCC’s World Cricket Committee criticised the ICC’s decision to drop four teams from the competition, branding it as a “retrograde step” by the body. The committee, which consists of various former players and umpires, also said the move could harm the potential growth in cricket’s developing countries around the world.

Instead, the MCC proposed the ICC stage a preliminary qualification round for lower ranked full member nations and the top associate nations in order to extend the length of the World Cup without damaging growth in developing markets. Speaking to UK broadcaster the BBC’s Test Match Special radio programme, Richardson said: “The World Cup should be the flagship of the ODI (One-Day International) game, (with) the best teams in the world. If you have 16 teams capable of playing in the World Cup you don't want all 16 to qualify. If only the 10 top ones go there I think it's quite special.

“(Previously) we had no proper pathway for associate members to qualify – the 10 full members made it automatically then the associates fought it out in a qualifying tournament. Now we've made the decision to include the top associates in the ODI rankings, Ireland and Afghanistan are in the FTP (Future Tours Programme), and from 2015 to 2019 that gives them the chance to qualify by rights by ranking. Ireland are a good side, they've proved that, and I would be surprised if they don't make the World Cup, even with 10 teams.”

Richardson has also offered his backing to Cricket Australia’s decision to host the sport’s first day-night Test match later this year. Australia will face New Zealand in the landmark match at the Adelaide Oval from November 27 to December 1. The game concludes a three-match series for the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy and will be the first in cricket’s longest format to take place partially under floodlights, with pink balls supplied by equipment manufacturer Kookaburra replacing the traditional red balls.

There remains some uncertainly over playing conditions, and Richardson admitted: “I think all players will be sceptical… it might be a bit of a leap of faith. If you're playing a team with fast bowlers in the twilight period I would probably be a bit nervous too."

However, he added: “But it is professional sport and to function it needs revenues. One of the reasons for playing cricket at that time of evening is prime time TV, advertisers at that time pay more money, there's more money for rights…yes there's a commercial aspect to playing at that time. What's the point of holding a concert at the Opera House if everybody's at work? It will be deemed a success if it creates excitement, people are inspired and they come and watch.”