ICC Associate Members
Most Bangladeshi cricket fans remember that fateful defeat by Afghanistan in the Asia Cup last year. Just a few days back, at a warm-up match between Bangladesh and Ireland, the latter bagged a well-earned victory. You may hold grudges against the associate nations, but you have to admit: these young teams are stepping up. The fight for Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to be among the top 10 nations in cricket has never been this tough.
Bangladesh earned its Test status back in 2000. The journey has been full of ups and downs since then, with a few stunning wins being marred by some very sloppy defeats where the team was left in tatters. Even with star players like Shakib Al Hasan or Mushfiqur Rahim, many a time the team has literally snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, much to the distaste of critics and fans. The growth of Bangladesh cricket has often been put in contrast to the Sri Lankan side, who were the eighth team to receive the Test status in 1981 and won the ODI World Cup within 14 years, beating other teams on a regular basis.
What about Zimbabwe? Once they received the Test status in 1992, improvements were steadily apparent. The late '90s were their golden days with players like the Flower brothers, Heath Streak and Murray Goodwin teaming up to beat other Full Members of ICC. Unfortunately, due to politicisation of cricket in the country, the quality of the team was thrown into a steep decline. Later the economic crisis only worsened the scenario.
On the other hand, the Associate Members show much promise. Each tournament, there have been sparks from the associates and the frequency of victories against the top 10 is steadily rising. While Ireland has been lauded as the best associate nation thus far, the relatively younger Afghanistan is growing up to be a worthy team.
Scotland and UAE are participants in this World Cup too, while Nepal, Hong Kong and the Netherlands have proven themselves in the T20 World Cup 2014. If you remember, Hong Kong and the Netherlands beat Bangladesh and Zimbabwe respectively in the group stages of that tournament.
The associate nations complain about the lack of facilities and support from ICC compared to Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. They want to be highlighted more often in the world arena. Porterfield, Shenwari, Joyce, Nabi and a handful of other players from these teams have displayed great cricketing skills that almost match the world class players who were obviously provided more exposure and training. Imagine how these talents may be honed if more international matches are offered to these deserving teams.
The ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 has 14 teams competing for the ultimate title of world champions. However, the 2019 World Cup is set to be played with 10 teams, which comes as a shock to the associate nations as they have to face a tough challenge to overthrow Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, who have everything to lose and hence, are likely to fight ferociously. Reducing the number of sides only discourages the spread of cricket.
Cricket has been around for about two centuries and yet there are just ten teams having regular matches between themselves. Isn't this the right time to add a few more Full Members?