After beating the West Indies in the World Cup, Ireland captain William Porterfield said, “I don’t see why any team has to be an ‘associate’ member....” Cricket’s caste system is not doing the sport any good. The full-member club is so exclusive that in the 139 years since the first Test was played, only eight new members have been admitted to it. The International Cricket Council’s motto might well be: ‘We are Exclusive—and hope to remain that way.’ Temporary one-day international status is granted to six others. But as teams lack competition and are generally ignored by the Top Ten, they tend to drop out.
The ICC’s 106 countries are divided into full, associate and affiliate members. FIFA, football’s governing body, established in the same decade as the ICC, has 103 members more. “You don’t see any other sport cutting teams in their top competitions,” said Porterfield, referring to the 2019 World Cup which will have just 10 teams, as compared to this year’s 14. “You’re taking away opportunities for a lot of nations to get to World Cups and develop the sport in their country through publicity and everything, so it is frustrating.” The choice is between doing what is good for the game and what is good for the wallets of the triumvirate (India, Australia and England) which effectively runs it. Television, which brings in the money, is happy with exclusivity; it means endless matches involving the Big Three and the Small Four (Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand, Sri Lanka), with a bit left over for the Bottom Three (West Indies, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh).