The minnows are here to stay and will do so unless the ICC wants it otherwise. The performance of the lower-ranked teams has improved significantly in the past three World Cups.
The 2007 Cricket World Cup had 16 participants and there was a lot of criticism then that the organisers were making the event boring just to make more profit. ICC reduced the event to 14 teams in 2011 and has sticked to the format since then.
It wouldn't be an overstatement to say that this World Cup has given us best crop of the Associate nations. Although none of them were able to qualify for the quarter-finals, each of them made a mark in the event with their performance, with Ireland almost getting through to the knockout phase of the event.
Talking about the history of Associates turning into Test nations, there is example of Bangladesh - the youngest Full Member of the ICC.
Bangladesh are in the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the first time, knocking England out of the tournament to pull off one of the greatest wins in their short cricketing history. They are full-time ICC member for around 15 years and it is the first time they are going to play a knockout game at the World Cup, which also makes a point that if given time and resources, even weaker teams can go up the ranks.
But the other Test minnow of the tournament, Zimbabwe, didn't have a rosy run once again despite stand-in captain Brendan Taylor's farewell heroics. Taylor scored a century in his final international appearance and was the second highest run-scorer at the end of pool stage, which was also the highest ever aggregate by a Zimbabwe batsman at a World. Zimbabwe's performance, though, didn't see much improvement as they won just one of their six games in Pool B.
Coming back to the Associates part of this World Cup, here's a rundown of how each of those four won hearts:
After their impressive performances in last two World Cups, where they defeated Pakistan in 2007 and England in 2011, the Emerald Isle was seen as the leader of the Associate nations. And they didn't disappoint. They were unlucky to miss out a spot in the quarters as Pakistan defeated them by seven wickets in their last match to book their place in last eight along with the West Indies.
It was their best World Cup outing so far. They won three of their six matches and despite missing the chance to qualify for the knockout phases on net run rate, they have once again shown that they can compete with the best and can't be taken lightly.
They stunned two times world champions West Indies by registering a four-wicket win in their opening Pool B match and went on to win two more matches beating UAE by two wickets and Zimbabwe by five runs but were tipped out of the tournament on the last day of the pool stage.
William Porterfield and Ed Joyce were the top scorers for Ireland. Their bowling was a little underwhelming and Alex Cusack, who took seven wickets in four matches, was their highest wicket-taker.
Their good show in cricket's premier tournament has sent a strong message to the International Cricket Council to rethink their decision of making the 2019 World Cup a 10-team event.
Ireland skipper Porterfield was furious over ICC and said that if the ICC is insistent on limiting the showpiece ODI event, then all the countries outside the 10 Full Members might as well not bother to play.
Afghanistan defeated Scotland by one wicket in a thrilling finish to register their first win in World Cup on their maiden appearance in the showpiece event. Their star player and one of the most experienced member in the squad, Samiullah Shenwari, played a match-winning knock of 96 runs. But they lost their other five matches in the pool stage and four of them were by big margins.
But one thing that made the Afghans one of the most popular team in this World Cup was their fearless approach against every opponent. That gave Sri Lanka a scare when the Afghanistan pace bowlers reduced the islanders to 51 for 4 chasing 233, but Mahela Jayawardene scored his 19th ODI hundred to avoid a big upset.
To see the trio of Shapoor Zadran, Dawlat Zadran and Hamid Hassan bowl was one of the best sight of this World Cup and they threatened the top teams on many occasions. Nawroz Mangal and Shenwari were the most impressive with the bat.
Afghanistan showed that they are the team with the potential to compete at the top and ICC should give them more opportunities so that they don't disappear like Kenya.
They came into the tournament as one of the lowest-ranked teams and there were no expectations from them as the played their second World Cup after a gap of 19 years. They had very few full-time players and most of them were part-timers drawn from Pakistan and India.
The team finished their World Cup campaign without winning a match and their best performance came against Ireland where they came very close to a winning before losing the match in the last over by two wickets.
Shaiman Anwar was among the top ten run scorers after the end of Pool stage. He scored 311 runs in the tournament and also became the first UAE batsman to score a ton in a World Cup.
The Scots would be disappointed with their performance as this was their third appearance in a World Cup and they are returning home without a win. They didn't really challenge the big teams other than coming close to staging a big upset in Dunedin when they reduced title favourites and co-hosts New Zealand to 137 for 7, chasing 143 for a win.
Their best chance came against fellow Associates in Pool A, Afghanistan, but lost the match in last over by a narrow margin of one wicket.
One positive the Scots can take from this World Cup is the brilliant performance of Josh Davey. The right-arm pacer picked up 15 wickets and was the second highest wicket-taker in the tournament's league stage.
The best way to determine if a sport is getting global is by the increase in the number of countries playing it. The decision to reduce the 2019 and 2023 World Cups to ten teams threatens not only the development of cricket in countries like Afghanistan and Ireland, but also growth of the sport as a whole. As Sachin Tendulkar also pointed out, ICC's decision, if enforced, will be a backward step and they should instead be exploring ways to expand the next World Cup to as many as 25 teams.
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