Cricket needs to grow as a sport. It cannot afford to be just an Indian sub-continent driven sport. That is the reason this World Cup is so important to see where the world game is headed.
Afghanistan is everyone’s sentimental favourite. Lots of stories about their struggle float around, but most of the current lot have had fairly seamless progression into international cricket. Ireland has caught everyone’s fancy, rather does once every four years at the World Cup. Scotland and United Arab Emirates (UAE) are decent sides, thanks to five years of sustained investment.
But cricket needs to give these sides more to get more out of them. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has done its bit by providing these sides regular cricketing action amongst themselves. The top eight Associate and Affiliate sides play the first-class competition Intercontinental Cup and the one-day tournament called World Cricket League Championship.
Now, Afghanistan and Ireland are part of what is essentially a 12-team ODI FTP, where they will, by virtue of being on the rankings table, be able to look for opportunities to play the big sides. Then these sides have opportunities through the I-Cup to look at a possible play-off for Test status in 2017 against the last-ranked Test nation.
The way forward is clear: Get Afghanistan and Ireland to play more ODIs against the big boys, throw a lifeline to get a Test status and have more Associates at World Twenty20s. While this is good in theory, it needs a bigger buy in from the regional powers like India. Afghanistan, UAE and even sides like Nepal, a Twenty20 nation, need more opportunities to play in India, like England does for sides in Europe. Afghanistan and UAE, both ODI teams, need to be a regular at the Asia Cup too.
Above all, cricket needs to be firm in ensuring that they do not fall for the trap to have another Test nation. Every side should get to play what they are good at. So even if we have eight Test sides, 15 ODI sides and 20 Twenty20 nations, so be it. Just spread the game.