REDUCTION in the number of teams at the Cricket World Cup harms the growth of the game worldwide, says Zimbabwe star player Brendan Taylor.
By Enock Muchinjo
Zimbabwe, who hosted a qualification tournament early this year, failed to qualify for the 2019 World Cup in England after a shock defeat to minnows United Arab Emirates in a must-win match.
But batting kingpin Taylor believes his team was denied its well-deserved place at the finals by the International Cricket Council (ICC) resolution to cut the tournament from 14 teams to 10.
“To me personally, it should be 12 teams at least,” the former Zimbabwe captain told IndependentSport this week.
“The ICC, I think, got that wrong. You have some associate nations, some who just got Test status like Ireland, playing really well. Scotland as well, they are playing some good cricket. Also the Netherlands. So, you know, if you are going to grow the game, I don’t think you must punish teams that are trying hard to qualify on limited funding. ICC are trying to build the brand of cricket worldwide, (but) that’s not building a brand.
“Some of the smaller nations with limited funding have produced some of the most exciting games in World Cup history. If you look at Ireland versus Pakistan (in 2007). If you look at Afghanistan, they’ve won a game already at the World Cup after just one appearance. Look at us, we’ve upset big teams in the past. To me, 10 teams doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Taylor urged the ICC to take a leaf out of other major international sporting events, which are expanding instead of reducing size.
“Soccer is adding more teams. Rugby is adding more teams. The Olympics are adding more sports to the schedule. I don’t understand why cricket is getting cut when it’s a multi-billion business. They (ICC) are trying to grow the game, that’s not growing the game.”
Zimbabwe previously played in all World Cup tournaments since making a debut as a relatively new nation in 1983, and Taylor describes his generation’s unwanted record as the lowest point of his career.
“It was the hardest experience I have had to deal with,” said Taylor. “I can’t even explain it. The public was disappointed with us, and I understand that. But for the players, for me, it was probably the lowest point of my career. It hurt, it stung us. It jeopardised future tours we would have got leading to that World Cup. We could have played England, you know, the big teams.
“We could have played Australia. From that aspect, there is some downside to it. But we are still a Test nation.
Financially it doesn’t affect our model with ICC. But that’s the way it is, we didn’t qualify. We really should have qualified. We had a good series up until that last game. You know, we saw (tournament winners) Afghanistan struggling at the beginning. They lost to some weak sides, but they still pulled through in the end. We put in big performances and unfortunately lost to a side that was very determined. We probably just faltered under pressure a little bit towards the end in that last game against UAE.”
The 32-year-old wicketkeeper, meanwhile, is back in the Zimbabwe team for the forthcoming tours of South Africa and Bangladesh, having missed the June-July visits here by Australia and Pakistan over a pay dispute with Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC).
With players having been paid their dues under a special plan designed by the ICC, Taylor said the team is now fully focussed on the tours, where Zimbabwe will play three ODIs and three T20Is in South Africa, followed by three ODIs and two Tests in Bangladesh.
“It’s been a solid six weeks (of training). We’ve ticked boxes,” said Taylor. “The group is making some progress.
These are two very big tours for us. We are aware of that. What happened is water under the bridge now. We are trying to make amends and move forward. I’m personally happy with my work ethic. The team starts (training) at 9am. I’m here at 8am. I understand the importance of these tours, I understand the importance of representing Zimbabwe. We are moving forward.”