Minnows 'bring heart and soul' to Cricket World Cup
Minnows: Cricket World Cup fillers or giant killers?
The Black Caps have had a whirlwind tournament so far, and it is wonderful to see them at this stage with four wins from four games. They show no signs of slowing down.
But this has seemingly been a far-from-perfect tournament. Media and former cricket players say that outside the New Zealand games there has not been a lot of excitement.
The bat has dominated ball for the majority of the tournament, with massive hundreds and lightning-fast scores being made almost every game.
So where do the fans turn to for excitement? Well, after the Black Caps, the most thrilling part of the tournament has been the associates.
Many were quick to dismiss these teams before they had even played a game. Even midway into the tournament, their presence here has been questioned.
Duncan Johnstone pointed out the 'snore' of the Black Caps playing Afghanistan and Bangladesh before the quarterfinals. This comes, despite Afghanistan providing one of the few thrillers against Scotland last week, and who held their own against Sri Lanka.
Some of the best moments of the tournament have come from associate teams. The cool and calm nature of Ireland's chase against the West Indies was of a standard many top teams rarely produce, the battle that the Scottish put up against the New Zealand batting attack was admirable, and the tense finish between Scotland and Afghanistan was the result of arguably the most exciting game of the World Cup so far.
The reason it has been so good to watch is because so much heart and soul goes into these teams that it is easy to get on their side and cheer them on. If they win it is usually a wonderful underdog result, but the passion at taking a wicket or scoring a 50 or 100 is visible to all, regardless.
I often wonder if media and administrators ever take into account the viewpoints of developing cricket countries during the decisions and criticisms of the World Cup. From an Irish and Afghani perspective, these tournaments have been brilliant reminders of just what their teams can do when given a chance against tougher opposition.
Instead they will be scrapping to make it to the next tournament because of complaints about the number of teams and the schedules, that the weaker teams do not bring enough excitement to the likes of India and Australia.
Why not think about how much excitement playing India and Australia brings to the associate teams? These are countries where cricket is still developing, and any chance to play a top team will give them more experience and a chance to earn respect in the cricketing world.
Ireland have surely done this by now, after several major upsets in previous tournaments it was almost a formality when they beat West Indies in their first match.
If the decision to almost entirely leave associates out of the World Cup is final, then I would suggest allowing them to play in the Champions Trophy and the T20 World Cup, as well as having more frequent fixtures against the higher ranked teams.
It could even work as a combined tour with other countries, playing Afghanistan and the U.A.E on the same tour as one to Pakistan. Or playing Ireland and Scotland when touring England, while perhaps adding the Netherlands to that list too. Even Canada and the US become available when trips are made to the Caribbean.
The more these countries play and develop, the better they will get, and more interest and revenue will come out of these countries. It is just a matter of patience, just as every test-playing nation has had to experience in their history.
Cricket will become a much more exciting sport if these countries continue to rise and challenge the more dominant sides.
View all contributions