International Cricket Council chief executive David Richardson has warned of the dangers of the game “spreading itself too thin” but said officials were still keen for the sport to fully establish itself in the United States.
The 2019 World Cup in England is set to feature 10 teams, four fewer than are taking part in the ongoing edition where co-hosts Australia and New Zealand will contest Sunday’s final in Melbourne.
This has led to complaints from non-Test or Associate members of the ICC that they risk being frozen out from the sport’s showpiece tournament, with potentially damaging consequences for the future of cricket in their countries if they don’t have a realistic chance of appearing at a World Cup.
But Richardson, speaking during Australia’s semi-final win over defending champions India at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday, said: “I think there’s a slight change in strategy amongst our board in that we’ve been through a phase of trying to grow the game from 44 members playing to 106 members.
“Now we realise, let’s not spread ourselves our too thin, we’ve got Full Member (Test) countries, Zimbabwe being one, West indies maybe, where we’ve got to be careful that they don’t fall off the ship.
“I think the focus is on trying to consolidate.” However, the former South Africa wicket-keeper’s words drew an angry response from Ireland batsman Ed Joyce, whose Associate nation side beat both the West Indies and Zimbabwe -- two of cricket’s 10 elite Test teams—in the pool phase of this World Cup.
“’Let’s not spread ourselves too thinly’!!!!! That’s the attitude that’ll make cricket a truly global game. Blood is boiling @ICC”, Joyce posted on Twitter.
However, Richardson—who said the number of teams taking part at the 2019 World Cup in England had yet been set in stone—defended the ICC’s plans for cricket’s global future by saying: “We might have a pool of 10 teams that are reasonably competitive at the moment, so we are trying to grow that pool.”