T20 World Cup expansion on the horizon?

Hot on the heels of rumours of the ODI World Cup expanding - though talk is now of a 14 team event rather than a 16 team event - comes a report from Cricinfo's George Dobell that the ICC is also considering an expansion to the T20 World Cup to 20 teams from 2024.

Dobell reports that the proposal on the cards is a four groups of five format in the first phase of the tournament, rather than the current format which claims to be a 16 team event but is in practice a smaller event with an extra qualifier tacked on to the front of it.

An expanded tournament will likely require a change to the current qualifying system. Hopefully this will be a chance to move towards a system where a majority of participants have to qualify.

As with the talk of the ODI World Cup expansion and a more open attitude towards the Olympics, this will be very well received in associate circles. The two men's World Cups are frequent topics of discussion in the Chief Executive Committee, and whilst there remains a possibility that the proposals are watered down before being put to a vote, the fact that they are being so readily discussed is promising.

Being a natural cynic though, I'm not going to get too excited until it actually gets the rubber stamp, and even then I won't be fully excited until the tournament actually takes place.

A return of the Intercontinental Cup?

Dobell's report also reveals that a revival of the Intercontinental Cup - probably under a new name - is also on the cards.

Regular readers of this column will remember that I suggested having those full members outside the Test Championship - Afghanistan, Ireland and Zimbabwe - play alongside the top associates in a revival of the tournament, and it appears that this is indeed what is being discussed at the Chief Executive Committee. Hello to the person from the CEC who reads the column, whomever you may be.

As I suggested, having all matches in the tournament carry Test status is on the cards. Allowing associates to play the longer form of the game will likely do more for their development than an expanded T20 World Cup would, and hopefully it will come to pass.

Bamboo bats

Whilst the Thailand women's team got a lot of mainstream exposure last year with their participation in the Women's T20 World Cup, the men's team have lagged behind and get essentially no mainstream exposure.

However one former member of the men's national side got a lot of attention in the mainstream media this past week when it was revealed that he was part of a team that has developed a cricket bat where the blade is made out of bamboo rather than willow.

Dr Darshil Shah played three times for Thailand in the 2006 ACC Trophy without success and was a consistent presence in Thailand's youth teams from 2002 to 2007 at Under-15, Under-17 and Under-19 level. He is now a member of the Centre for Natural Material Innovation at the University of Cambridge and was a coauthor of the research that was published this week.

At the moment, the laws require the blade of the bat to be made out of wood so bamboo, which is a grass, would not currently be allowed. The MCC have, whilst ruling the bat out for now, welcomed the research and will be discussing the topic at the next meeting of the Laws sub-committee.

In the research the authors point out that bamboo is potentially far more sustainable than willow and would have lower production costs, which would be a boost to the game in lower-income countries where good quality cricket equipment can be hard to come by. The impact that this could have in some of the less well-off associate members is obvious

An interesting week of international cricket ahead

This week sees two international series involving associate members, with Scotland travelling to the Netherlands for two ODIs and the Czech Republic hosting Austria and Luxembourg.

With Scotland having been out of international cricket for 18 months and the Netherlands having only just returned last month in the T20I format, the former series will serve as a good barometer of where the two teams currently stand.

The T20I series in Prague will feature Sudesh Wickramasekara, joint holder of the record for the fastest T20I century and now captain of the national side. Whilst Austria and Luxembourg are better teams than the weakened Turkish side he scored that century against, the man known by his teammates as "The Beast" has been in good form in a recent ECS T10 series, scoring 399 runs in 10 matches at a strike rate of over 200 with a high score of 82.

Both of the two series are set to be live streamed on YouTube, providing some much needed entertainment for those of us still working from home!