`Minnows’ devalue World Cup - Holding
Guyana Chronicle
February 20, 2007

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HAMILTON, Bermuda (CMC) – Legendary West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding delivered a bouncer here last weekend by saying that expanding the number of non-Test playing nations in the World Cup was a flawed idea that ultimately devalued the competition.

Holding told the Royal Gazette that while he hoped Bermuda would acquit themselves well on their World Cup debut, in principle he felt that only the top-ranked International Cricket Council Associate member country should be allowed to take part.

The 53-year-old, now a leading cricket TV commentator, said the ICC’s decision to gradually increase the number of qualifying berths from one to the current quota of five would create a slew of dull, one-sided games which would humiliate and discourage most of the smaller participating teams.

Holding, who was the guest speaker at the Bermuda Cricket Board’s World Cup banquet on Saturday night, claimed these matches would lower the entertainment value for fans.

“Let me first say that I am here to support Bermuda cricket and I really do hope they do themselves justice at the World Cup,” Holding, who first came to Bermuda in 1975 with the Jamaican national side, said.

“But I do not believe the World Cup should go on for as long as it does (almost two months) and that is partly because there are far too many teams in the competition who are not good enough to be there.

“I’ve argued about this with the ICC for sometime. I simply do not believe that if you come fourth in the ICC Trophy (as Bermuda did) that you should be entitled to play in the World Cup.

“It does not make sense to me. What is gained by a team playing in the World Cup and getting absolutely hammered? In my opinion it is counter-productive.”

Holding suggested the ICC Associate members play a competition among themselves, with the winner qualifying for the larger Cricket World Cup.

“What I believe should happen is that all the non-Test playing nations should continue to play amongst themselves, to have their own competition where only the top-ranked country goes through to the World Cup,” Holding argued.

“I see nothing wrong with giving the smaller teams the odd tour and a few games against the bigger teams from time to time. And I think the ICC should continue to invest in non-Test playing nations to improve their cricket and their infrastructure and things like that.

“But it’s a big jump from that to having six non-Test nations all playing against the cream of the crop. It’s not good for cricket.”

Holding is desperate for the first World Cup in the Caribbean – which begins early next month – to be seen as a success.

He said he remained optimistic that despite reports of poor ticket sales, stadium construction delays and tourist visa problems, all the kinks in preparation “will eventually be ironed out”.

Holding also contended that a strong run by the West Indies team was essential.

“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a very exciting time for the whole Caribbean,” added Holding, who took 249 Test wickets in only 60 matches throughout an international career spanning 12 years.

Bermuda start their World Cup campaign with warm-up matches against Australia, England and Zimbabwe in St Vincent and the Grenadines before heading to Trinidad for group-stage matches against Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh at the Queen’s Park Oval.