Why isn't Zimbabwe fighting the 10 team World Cup?
The Irish cricketers have been making a lot of noise during their recent Cricket World Cup campaign about the ICC's decision to reduce the number of teams for the 2019 and 2023 edition's to 10.
So much so that during Sky Sports' broadcast of the Ireland/Pakistan match, former spinner Kyle McCallan (who was providing analysis for the British broadcaster) was asked why Ireland didn't just concentrate on on-field activities and forgot about the talking.
However, this was surely the wrong question to ask. The right question is why are Zimbabwe, who seem destined to join Bangladesh, Ireland and Afghanistan for a qualifying tournament in the sub-continent in 2018 for the right to play in England in four years time.
A 14 or 16 team format would (probably) see the African side qualify automatically and yet in the reduced numbers they face a difficult task even making the main event.
They lost to Ireland in a thriller in Hobart earlier this month and factor in the loss of Brendan Taylor there is no guarantee that they would beat the Irish in 2018. Add to that the fact that the tournament will be held in Bangladesh (which makes little sense considering the difference between English and Sub-Continent conditions) at this moment in time you would have to consider Zimbabwe to be below Bangladesh and Ireland in the initial pecking order for the last two spots.
Afghanistan will be in with a shout also after gaining good experience in an admittedly poor campaign in Australia and New Zealand.
The 10 team World Cup is as damaging to Zimbabwe as it is to Ireland and yet, there isn't much noise coming from their camp. While Ireland were almost pleading to anyone who will listen to include so called Associate nations in future editions, Zimbabwe were making excuses and blaming TV umpires on their failings.
They could, in theory, be in the top eight in the rankings by September 2017 (the deadline for qualification) if they overtake the West Indies, the team currently in eighth place. The decline of England, who are sixth now, but might fall below Pakistan sooner rather than later is irrelevant, as they as already qualified as hosts.
Zimbabwe are in the same place as the Associates when it comes to the next World Cup - they just refuse to admit it. Their ranking above Ireland and Afghanistan is almost exclusively because of the number of games they have played.
A more accurate reflection on where Zimbabwe compare to the best of the second tier is in the Twenty20 rankings where they have played a similar number of matches as Ireland and Afghanistan. In the T20 rankings Ireland are 9th, the Afghans 12th. Zimbabwe lie in thirteenth position also below the Netherlands.
So maybe 2019 will not be Associate free, after all.