International Cricket Council (ICC) Chief Executive David Richardson predicted an open World Cup on Tuesday, saying the associate members are well prepared to upset major teams in the tournament.
Four second-tier nations — Afghanistan, Ireland, United Arab Emirates and Scotland — will join the 10 full members for the 11th edition of the tournament from Feb. 14-March 29.
While Ireland stunned Pakistan and England at the 2007 and 2011 World Cups respectively, minnows Afghanistan defeated Bangladesh in their first win over a test-playing nation last year.
The ICC arranged a familiarisation tour of Australia for them last year during which they played matches against local sides to gain much-needed experience of the conditions Down Under.
The governing body also appointed Dav Whatmore, who coached Sri Lanka to their 1996 World Cup win, to help the four minnows prepare for the tournament in Australia and New Zealand.
“The associates and the way they are prepared for this tournament, any other country will be silly to take them lightly,” Richardson told.
“If they do, there’s a real chance of an upset being caused. They will be the underdogs in most of the matches but a surprise or two can impact the group standings. If you are South Africa, they will want to make sure they finish top of the group because they would want to avoid a difficult quarter final. Any upset will have profound effect on the tournament,” said the former Proteas stumper-batsman.
The 14 teams have been divided into two groups for the World Cup with four teams from each pool advancing to the knock-out stages.
The 55-year-old Richardson is confident the upcoming tournament would eclipse all the earlier editions and the new playing conditions would further lift the standard of the game.
Two new balls and an extra fielder inside the circle during the non-powerplay overs will be used for the first time in a World Cup which, Richardson hopes, will also encourage attacking cricket.
“The use of two new balls will give the seam bowlers a chance and the fielding restrictions changed the one-day game quite considerably,” said Richardson.