The Afghanistan Cricket Board has expressed its concerns on the ICC's plan to restrict the 50 overs World Cup to only 10 countries, with ambiguity about the chance of associates and affiliates participating in such future events.

The CEO of the ACB, Hamid Shinwari, told the Cricket Post in a phone interview from Kabul that cricket fans and players in Afghanistan are unhappy with the recommendation as it will not help develop cricket in the country and will be a major setback in our efforts to motivate the Afghan players to play hard for a goal that we set for them, but now may no longer exist. Hamid said, “this will discourage Afghan players to play hard for reaching the World Cup”.

Hamid welcomed the ICC plan to increase the World Twenty20 to a 16 team event and said, “but we were trying hard to make our way to the 50 overs World Cup. Now we do not know what it will be like”. Hamid said that the ICC did not consult or inform the ACB about the latest development and added, “it is certainly not encouraging news for Afghan cricket.”

The ACB had said earlier that the World Cricket League Division One games in the Netherlands earlier this year was its launching pad for the T20 World Cup in 2012 and the 50 overs World Cup in 2015. Hamid says, the ACB will ask to know the background to this decision and how it will help develop cricket in his country. “We all were trying hard to reach the 2015 World Cup and this has motivated our players and administration to try its best and plan the proper infrastructure to prepare for the challanges associated with reaching the World Cup", he said.

The ICC has recently told the media that restricting the big event to 10 participants does not exclude associates, but has not explained the mechanism through which associates or affiliates (such as Afghanistan) can climb the ladder to the 50 overs World Cup. Although the ICC insists its new decision does not exclude associates, it at least makes it a much harder dream for them and affiliates to play in the 50 overs World Cup.

Despite Afghanistan having ODI status since 2009, it has had no chance to play an ODI with a full member. Afghanistan was hoping that by reaching the World Cup in 2015, it would get exposure to the full member countries and the next level of cricket.

Associates and affiliates are represented by three members in the ICC meetings, but it is unclear at the moment what role these three members played in the latest recommendation of the ICC. The ACB says they were not consulted or even made aware of the ICC agenda by these three members that represent the associates and affiliates.

If the ICC does not exclude the Associates and Affiliates from the future 50 overs World Cup, it is then unclear how the qualification to this event will be structured.

Ibrahim Momand, a cricket analyst and commentator who covered the World Twenty20 in the West Indies for the Afghan audience, says the ICC's decision to restrict the tournament to 10 countries “will kill cricket in Afghanistan”. He argues that cricket fans in Afghanistan found a lost hope in cricket to play with the likes of Pakistan, India, and England and prove their right to live as an independent nation in the world. “They could not do it in politics, so sport is an avenue they wanted to use to face the world and play with big nations and show their national pride. The World Cup was an option for them to face full members”, Momand says.

Momand is of the view that if Afghanistan loses the chance of reaching the 50 overs World Cup it will be the end of crickets popularity in Afghanistan. Afghans have dreamed of seeing their team on TV, playing strong cricketing nations and showing their country's flag in major cricket events, he says. Ibrahim Momand sees Afghanistan as different cricketing nation than some associates and affiliates. He believes Afghanistan is set to become a major cricketing country and the ICC should consider this. Only considering the interest of full members is not fair, he says.

Momand says Afghans followed the recent Ramadan Trophy that the Afghanistan Youth club won in Pakistan and were ashappy as if they have won a World Cup because for Afghans this is an extraordinary thing happening to them. Momand covered the Karachi event live for a radio network in Afghanistan that runs over 40 radio FM channels across Afghanistan and millions of Afghans followed the tournament live through Shamshad TV inside and outside Afghanistan through normal land antennas and satellite.

Momand says that if ICC structures the qualifying round for the World Cup in a way that associates and affiliates will have to play the likes of South Africa and Pakistan, then none of them will find its way to the world cup as the full members will not allow themselves to lose in the qualifying rounds, or “the associate and affiliate world now has to play Bangladesh and Zimbabwe for their spots in the World Cup.”

Article reproduced by kind permission of The Cricket Post