independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Cricket: Irish fury at World Cup closed shop

William Porterfield. Photo: Getty Images

William Porterfield reacted furiously last night after an "embarrassing" decision taken by the International Cricket Council (ICC) to bar all the smaller nations from the next World Cup.

After cutting the 2015 showpiece to 10 teams, the ICC yesterday ruled out any chance of a qualifying tournament whereby the top Associate nations -- like Ireland -- could challenge the lowest-ranked full members, namely Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, for a place in the main event.

"It's an absolute disgrace," said the Ireland captain Porterfield. "I don't know how they can even comprehend doing this. How can the ICC shut out half the world and still call themselves a world governing body?

"What else could we have done in the World Cup? We held our own against the full members, we beat England, we got the fastest hundred ever. For the ICC to turn around and throw that back in our face a few weeks later is an absolute joke.

"We are currently ranked 10th, ahead of Zimbabwe, and there is no reason we can't move up another position, if not two, by the next World Cup.

"Instead, the door has been closed in our face. It is an embarrassment."

If the ruling stands -- and last night there was talk of the 95 Associate and Affiliate nations of the ICC taking their case to court -- World Cup heroes like Kevin O'Brien would not get a chance to perform on the biggest stage again for at least eight years.

Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom, who was at the ICC meeting in Mumbai, was furious that after beating England so memorably last month -- and ousting Pakistan from the 2007 World Cup -- Ireland should be cast aside.

"This is nothing short of outrageous." he fumed. "All of the principles by which a decision should have been made -- which is what's best for the sport and what's acting in the best interests of all 105 ICC members -- have clearly been abandoned.

"The conclusion can only be reached that the decisions made today were based purely on the protection of the existing entitlements for full members and the commercial imperative that a 10-team event delivers nine guaranteed matches for India and England.

"After such a terrific World Cup, and the wonderful occasion of the final, I'm afraid this is an absolute black day for the sport. It's a genuinely awful decision that has been reached."

Other Ireland players soon left their feelings be known. Wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien said: "I'm gutted. This could halt the progress of Irish cricket beyond repair. So sad."

Gary Wilson was even more forthright, tweeting: "Excuse my French, but that was a s*** decision -- not a World Cup now just a trophy with 10 teams."

Without the prospect of playing at a World Cup until 2019 -- when there will again be only 10 teams, but a chance for Associates to qualify -- Ireland will find it even harder to hold onto its best young players like Paul Stirling and George Dockrell.

The ICC is dangling the carrot of participation in the biennial World Twenty20 -- but neither Porterfield or Deutrom will be fobbed off, arguing that a serious cricketing nation must be involved in 50-over cricket.

"It's difficult to expect sponsors to remain on board and the government to continue to offer support when the question they could quite legitimately ask is 'why should we support you when your own sport won't?'," Deutrom added.

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