Following Netherlands’ stunning run to the 2023 Men’s World Cup, there are calls from both the Dutch and the ICC for a continuance of the World Cup Super League (WCSL) in some form. The world’s top 13 ODI sides featured in the first edition of the WCSL, which gave Associate teams such as Netherlands the chance to pit themselves against top opposition regularly. Netherlands’ performance in the World Cup Qualifier, as also those of other Associate teams, notably Scotland, has been seen as proof of the WCSL having made these sides more battle-hardened.
“It’s a work on. It’s no secret that T20 is in a pretty good place, Test cricket has had a shot in the arm [with the World Test Championship] but maybe we’ve lost our way a little bit in the 50-over format. We need to address both context and relevance and the experience around that. Is that a re-creation of the Super League or something equivalent? I don’t know but I suspect that the answer to that will be yes. We need to do something.”
“We need to make sure one-day cricket continues to have a following,” Barclay said. “It’s running the risk at the moment of having a lot of irrelevancy in terms of the bilateral arrangements that are made.”
But how this will be fixed remains unclear. From the information ESPNcricinfo has to date, the Super League is not on the agenda at the ICC’s AGM, which will take place next week, even though the Associate boards will be present and eager to discuss the way forward. Barclay, too, believes that they have a case, especially after the Netherlands’ Qualifier success. “If we accept that we are keeping all three forms of the game then we have got to give the next tier of countries, mainly those high-performing Associates, the opportunity to make sure that they then perform at the top table when they are performing at world events,” he said. “We’ve got 14 teams [qualifying for the World Cup] in the next cycle, so we’ve got to make sure they are competitive and prepared when they get to those events.”
A case in point are the Dutch themselves, who, had they not qualified for the World Cup, would have had no fixtures scheduled from the end of the Qualifier until the start of the new World Cup Cricket League 2 next February. Their success at last year’s T20 World Cup, where they advanced to the Super 12s and finished fourth in their six-team group, means they do not have to play in the European Qualifiers for the 2024 T20 World Cup. That means that in peak European summer, Netherlands have an empty calendar and no indication of when they play competitively before or after the ODI World Cup.
Netherlands won only three of their 24 Super League matches (two against Ireland, who finished 11th, and one over Zimbabwe, who were 12th) and ended the WCSL in last place. But the value they took from playing against Full Members informed how they went about this Qualifier – particularly their approach against spin – and taught them how to build winning habits.
“The playing experience was massive. If we didn’t play that Super League, we wouldn’t be anywhere near where we are,” O’Dowd said. “We were in situations so many times where we actually should have won games and then, we created a culture where we gave ourselves permission to win these games. In the past, we were quite happy just getting close against big sides. And now, we know that if we are in a winning position, we should be winning. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against. That’s been massive for us. The Super League has boosted so many guys’ confidence.”
Now, Netherlands will have the opportunity to play against nine other Full Members at the World Cup albeit without knowing when their next chance to play against them will be. Asked what they hope their journey to India will offer other Associates, O’Dowd hoped it could serve as an example that the game should continue growing.
“It shows the strength of Associate cricket. The gap between Associate cricket and Full Member nations is dwindling. Three Full Members have missed out on the World Cup,” he said. “I don’t want to sit here and say to other Associates to work harder and all that kind of stuff because I feel that’s a bit degrading. These guys are quality and they know what they need to do to win games. I just hope they can take a bit of inspiration from what we’ve been able to achieve and hopefully going forward, they can do the same.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s correspondent for South Africa and women’s cricket