Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom last night claimed the massive public backlash forced the International Cricket Council into an embarrassing u-turn after their executive committee voted in April for a ten team World Cup made up of the Test match playing full members.
Such a ruling prevented Ireland and the other 94 Associate members from qualifying for the global showpiece.
The move resulted in condemnation of the ICC and proved a public relations disaster for the sport.
However an Executive Board committee meeting in Hong Kong yesterday agreed to scrap their controversial plan and will now include four Associate nations in a 14-man World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Deutrom told the Irish Examiner from Hong Kong: “We are relieved with the decision. The 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.
“Ninety percent of the members of the ICC felt disenfranchised by the decision. Ninety percent of the players surveyed by the Federation of International Cricketers (FICA) felt the decision was wrong. 17,000 fans on the ICC’s website objected to the decision. The ICC’s own Development Committee and its Cricket Committee also felt the decision was wrong. The shout from all sides was deafening.”
Ireland cricketer Trent Johnston represented the Associate Nations on the high powered ICC Cricket Committee.
The group includes legends of the game including former West Indies captain Clive Lloyd and former Australia skipper Mark Taylor, and their anger at the exclusion increased the pressure on the 10 full member countries to reverse their decision according to Johnson.
“(ICC general manager) David Richardson brought it up on the first day at the end, as we had a few high-profile people leaving after that,” he said of a meeting earlier this year.
“Mark Taylor and (former West Indies bowler) Ian Bishop were adamant that there should be some form of qualification process for the World Cup. We did not talk about formats, but the people around the room were in agreement that there should be some sort of qualification. That was a great step for us. Their influence helped with the decision.”
Johnston feels that the country’s top young players, like 18-year-old George Dockrell and 20-year-old Paul Stirling, now have a reason to keep representing Ireland, rather than opting to play for England.
“We didn’t want Ireland to be a breeding ground for English cricket. I have said before that I hope that Eoin Morgan is the last player from these shores to play for England,” he said.
“The decision has given everybody a great lift, and it’s very big of the ICC to admit they’d got it wrong, and changed their mind. It’s important as we look to grow the sport in Ireland, as we have the potential to be a serious player in the global game. The game has really taken off in the last four years and it was the World Cups that generated that interest.”
In April, ICC president Sharad Pawar had called for a review of the original decision, and requested that the matter be revisited in the meeting in Hong Kong. Ireland coach Phil Simmons admits that he had become hopeful that the Associates would be thrown a lifeline after that intervention, but was taken by surprise that the Executive board had granted four places to the smaller nations.
“I was thinking that there would be a qualifier, but that the World Cup would come down to 12 teams,” he said. “However, I guess a 12-team World Cup is not viable for Australia. I am delighted not just for us, but for the 94 other nations at our level. They have an opportunity to qualify for the biggest tournament in our sport.”
The one sour note is that the ICC have cut the number of nations involved in the ICC World Twenty20 events in Sri Lanka (2012) and Bangladesh (2014) from 16 to 12.