Cricket World Cup 2015: Don't shun non-Test nations - they keep the tournament interesting

It is possible no Associate Members will take part in the 2019 competition

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The Independent Online

How many of the matches thus far in the World Cup have been interesting?

There have been plenty of noteworthy individual performances: Tim Southee decimating England's batting lineup before Brendan McCullum's pyrotechnics, Chris Gayle's brutal double-hundred against Zimbabwe, Jerome Taylor reducing Pakistan for 1-3 in two blistering overs.

But in nearly a fortnight's cricket, hardly any of the contests have actually been close, or exciting.

Apart, that is, from the matches involving the tournament's non-Test nations or 'Associate Members', the cricket world's lesser lights.

 

Ireland's victory against the West Indies was one of the most thrilling performances in World Cup history, but it was no giant-killing, no fluke. William Porterfield's side kept their heads when the game threatened to slip away from them, and chased down 307 with clinical calm. It was the third tournament in succession in which Ireland have triumphed against a Test nation.

Their second win, against a tenacious, motivated UAE outfit who fought until the final over, was a far more tense affair, while Scotland's one-wicket defeat to Afghanistan showed that in an era of ever-more ludicrous feats of batsmanship, the lowest-scoring contests are often the most intriguing.

You don't have to have seen the fine 2010 documentary Out of the Ashes to imagine the obstacles that Afghanistan's cricketers have had to overcome to reach their first World Cup. The team's unbridled joy when the winning boundary was struck will remain one of the abiding images of the tounrnament.

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Shapoor Zadran celebrates hitting the winning runs (AFP/Getty)

Both matches were contested between Associate Members, and both served as a reminder of the potential offered by the flagging format of 50-over cricket.

The clashes between cricket's more established powers have been conspicuously one-sided by comparison.

The drawn-out, flabby structure of the tournament must shoulder some responsibility, with little riding on the group matches between the world's eight most established national sides. Even England, who have performed so abjectly, know that they should be one decent showing against Bangladesh away from the quarter-finals.

This, presumably, is the reasoning behind the ICC's reshuffling of the 2019 tournament, hosted in England. It will feature 10 teams, down from 14 this time round, but won't actually be any shorter – it will last three days more than this competition, with one less match.

What it will do is make it almost impossible for Associate Members to reach the World Cup. In order to do so, Ireland and Afghanistan will be forced to overcome Test sides Bangladesh and Zimbabwe for the tournament's only two undecided spots in a ten-team qualifying competition held in... Bangladesh.

So there is a very real possibility that no non-Test teams will compete at the next World Cup, which would be a huge shame.

This one has certainly been far richer for their presence.

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