The plan is for a 48-match competition with all ten teams playing in a round-robin before the semi-finals. This is apparently to reduce uneven maulings and to make the World Cup better to watch. But if we look at the flagship competitions in other sports, they don't try to stop mis-matches; look at the Rugby World Cup for instance (1) (2) (3) and the Football World Cup (4) and even Aussie Rules, where South Africa hammered China 114-0 in a half-length game. Mis-matches are just part of what makes the concept of a World Cup what it is.
A World Cup wouldn't be a World Cup without maulings.
In 2007, there weren't sixteen competitive teams to play in the World Cup, but since then times have changed. Bermuda have made little progress and are now 24th in the world, but the teams around them have all made considerable progress, most notably Afghanistan and Nepal. Right at the point when the Associates are being most shut out, they are at last competitive enough to be given opportunities.
So, what are the options for the ICC? Considering that the main criticisms of the tournament have been that it is (a) too convoluted and (b) too much of a closed shop, I would consider a 16-team event. However, rather than the 51-match event that was played last time so many teams were included, I would recommend that the group stage (four groups of four) feeds straight into the quarter-finals. This would lead to a 31-match tournament, which could last around a month. Every match would have context, and it would have the same sort of appeal that the Champions' Trophy has enjoyed. We most certainly do have enough good Associates to fill the tournament as well. We have to remember that it is now six years since the start of the World Cricket League, and in six more years we could possibly see the exact same sort of progress that has been made in these past six years.
In six years, the Irish youngsters like Stuart Thompson and James Shannon will have matured, and will hopefully be part of a Test team. In six years, the Netherlands will hopefully have settled on some seamers to replace Edgar Schiferli and Billy Stelling. In six years, Scotland might have found some consistency in selection, and Freddie Coleman will be top class. In six years, Afghanistan will have an even larger fast bowling battery. The Kenyan youngsters will have developed into a strong team; Canada's baby-faced team might have done the same; Namibia's youth policy will have borne fruit; UAE's status as the centre of the cricketing world will help them no end; Nepal will be stronger still; Papua New Guinea will be rapping down the door for recognition and opportunity.
To shut all of these sides clean out of the World Cup six years before it even happens is lunacy. Why does the ICC think that 48 more repetitions of the same teams playing each other is more appealing than seeing new, unknown players pitting their wits against the best the world has to offer? What exactly is so hard to grasp? To keep palming these developing countries off by saying that they can have opportunities in Twenty20 is like palming off young actors from auditions, then calling them back to be extras in a crowded scene; like offering Bill Gates a job in data input. It is close-minded and wrong.