'Limiting WC to 10 teams not in best interests of the game'

Ehsan Mani, the former president of the International Cricket Council (ICC), has launched a scathing attack on Cricket Australia (CA) for its role in the reduction of teams at next year’s World Cup.

The ODI showpiece in the UK will feature only 10 teams, down from 14 that featured in the previous two World Cups. The decision by the ICC, made during the 2015 edition in Australia, has been widely panned from observers and fans.

Mani, who was the ICC president from 2003-06, said CA was “equally responsible” with their Indian and English counterparts in the decision to cull the number of teams. “It was done for financial reasons and it stems back to when India got knocked out early at the 2007 World Cup and broadcasters wanted more Indian matches,” he told Cricbuzz. “It is a hypocritical decision and it’s not acting in the best interests of the game. The World Cup should be a celebration of the sport and it is a disgraceful decision. It is very disappointing that the ICC didn’t revisit the decision.

“Every board is self-serving but the world is changing quickly and the boards need to wake up to this,” he added. “Do they just want to take a short-term view and squeeze all the money out? There is a lack of vision for the game because giving Associates nations a chance will improve their development and, in turn, make the game stronger.”

Mani said the decision was indicative of cricket not being inclusive compared to other sports. “Football, basketball and rugby are increasing the number of teams at World Cups,” he said. “Cricket has always been an elitist sport and this is another example of that. It has to be an inclusive sport to bring countries like Afghanistan, Scotland and Ireland into events like the World Cup.

“We saw football grow markedly in the USA after the World Cup was held there in 1994,” he added. “Cricket should look at a World Cup or World T20 being held in the USA or China down the track. They are huge markets and it would be a worthy investment in the sport.”

The ICC’s regime has had a makeover since the contentious decision was made three years ago and Mani was hopeful there might a “change for the good” in sentiment over Associates nations. “A lot of the right noises are being made but I just hope the voice of the Associates is heard at the ICC board level,” he said. “Australia, England and India, in particular, have a huge responsibility to promote the game.”

CA received criticism recently when it decided to scrap a proposed Bangladesh tour Down Under due to apparent concerns that a series during Australia’s winter would not be financial viable. Bangladesh’s lone Test series in Australia was a two-match affair in the winter of 2003.

Mani implored the embattled governing body to be beyond “self-interests”. “It is a short-sighted decision by CA and very disappointing,” he said. “A few years ago James Sutherland (CA chief executive) was scathing about the West Indies’ performance in Australia but how do these countries get better if you don’t play them? Bangladesh has a huge population and they are only going to get better, so this is a poor decision and one done with a lack of vision.”

CA declined to comment.

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