x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Minnows make the cricket World Cup better

Seeing the Associate teams such as Ireland and Kenya do well is much better for the growth of cricket than Australia playing India in the final.

The group stages of the World Cup are finally over, after 29 days and 42 matches spread across 13 cities.

The quarter-finals start on Wednesday and the smug might say the real World Cup starts now — seven matches that will decide the 50-over champions.

They will point to Group A, which was decided before a ball was bowled; there was no way Zimbabwe, Kenya or Canada could deny Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and New Zealand their places in the last eight.

Group B was closer, as Ireland and Bangladesh gave their more established opponents a few problems, but South Africa, India, England and the West Indies eventually took their place in the quarter-finals.

Changes have been promised for 2015 and it will be interesting to see what happens. The presence of Associate nations at the World Cup has long divided opinions, but it will be a pity to see them go.

To see Kenya reach the semi-finals (like they did in 2003), or Ireland beat Pakistan (2007) and England (2011) does a lot more for the growth of cricket than Australia playing India in the final.

And what hopes will the emerging nations harbour when the likes of China, Japan (their women won the bronze medal at the Asian Games), Papua New Guinea (whose Raymond Haoda finished at the top of the wicket-taking table at an Under 19 World Cup), Iran, Bhutan or Holland?

If rugby can allow Namibia, Japan, Georgia or Romania a place at the World Cup and football allows Qatar to host their showpiece event, why does cricket remain elitist?