Like virtually all other enthusiasts for the global development of cricket, we are too realistic to anticipate that the outcome of the discussion at this week's meeting of the Board will be anything other than a reduction of the number of qualifiers for the 2011 World Cup from the six who participated in the 2007 tournament to four.

When the CEOs of the Full Members are reportedly unanimous in their support for this proposal, it is scarcely probable that the Board will overturn their recommendation.

No doubt you will be convinced in your own minds that there are powerful financial reasons for reverting to a structure which closely resembles that of the 2003 competition, despite the fact that that tournament itself generated a good deal of adverse comment at the time.

A moment's reflection, however, should enable you to see that there is no direct connection between the number of participating countries and the duration of the tournament, or its commercial profitability, and that there is a variety of formats which could combine sixteen teams with a schedule no longer, less satisfactory or less financially successful than that which you seem certain to endorse.

In these circumstances, it is difficult to avoid the impression that the contraction is designed in large measure to protect the interests of Full Members who fear a repetition of the early dismissal of Pakistan and India from the 2007 tournament, and who are determined to load the dice as effectively as possible against any qualifier repeating the achievements of Kenya in 2003 (which were admittedly assisted by the political disruption of that competition) and of Ireland in 2007.

Some of your number, in other words, are unable to trust their full-time professional players to deliver success on the field against the part-timers of the qualifying Associates, and feel obliged to manipulate the structure as far as possible in their own favour.

It may be that from your elevated positions in the hierarchy of the world game, you are genuinely unable to understand the damage this cynical approach has done, and will continue to do, to the image of the ICC; however high the production values of your Strategic Plans and Annual Reports, public perception of cricket's governance is influenced infinitely more by the decisions you make and the policies your administrators actually pursue.

It is apparent to any observer that this proposal is in conflict with the whole tendency of the development programmes which the Board has, to its credit, implemented over the past few years.

This does not in itself come as a surprise: there has been a stark contrast between the efforts of the staff of the ICC Global Development and High Performance Programs, at both central and regional level, and the foot-dragging of the majority of Full Members, who have been reluctant to play ODIs against the leading Associates and have thereby made it that much more difficult for those emerging countries to build up the experience they need if they are to bridge the gap between the Test countries and themselves.

We are, of course, aware that an increasingly crowded international schedule is in danger of making intolerable demands upon the leading players, and that there are calls for a pruning of the Future Tours Program.

But if the declarations of the ICC Strategic Plan 2006-2010 are not merely a sophisticated attempt to present, for the media and for the International Olympic Committee, an appearance of global expansion which you have no intention of putting into practice, you will seek ways of mitigating the damage the proposed structure of the 2011 World Cup will do to the idea that the ICC is genuinely committed to progress in this regard.

We hope and expect that the three Associates' representatives on the Board will be putting this case in the strongest terms this week.

For what it is worth, we know we are not alone in hoping that your collective wisdom will recognise the need to offset a regrettable decision to restrict the number of participants in the 2011 World Cup to 14 with visible support for at least the following:

  • the proposed significant increase in the budget for the High Performance Program in the 2009-2013 quadrennium, together with a greater degree of freedom for the participating countries in the allocation of those resources;
  • a substantial reallocation of the funding of the Global Development Program so that the present inequitable bias towards members from the Asian region is significantly reduced;
  • an assurance that full ODI status in 2009-2013 will not be restricted to the four qualifiers for the 2011 World Cup, but will involve (as stated in the current Strategic Plan) 16 countries;
  • a clear commitment from the Full Members to ensure a regular programme of ODIs between themselves and the leading Associates; and
  • a commitment from the Full Members to continue their support of the development of Associates cricket by encouraging first-class, List A and youth representative matches involving their own constituent teams and the leading Associates.

Be under no illusion: there is more at stake this week than just the format of a single tournament, however important that may be. Those who are passionate about the sport whose future is in your hands expect you to rise above narrow self-interest and short-term financial advantage, and to display a level of statesmanship which has unfortunately been all too seldom apparent in the ICC's recent performance.

We wish you much wisdom in your deliberations.

Yours truly,