ICC Women's Cricket World Cup 2022
Thailand cruelly denied Cup, Championship berths
The mid-tournament cancellation of the ODI World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe has denied Thailand a chance to debut at the marquee event despite their strong run through the group stage
28 November 2021, 03:16 PM AEST
Thailand have been heartbreakingly robbed of a maiden appearance at an ODI World Cup, and of future opportunities in the format, after the qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe was called off overnight due to the new COVID-19 variant.
Australia's final three opponents in the marquee event to be held in New Zealand in March-April have been confirmed with Pakistan, West Indies and Bangladesh filling the final three spots at the eight-team event.
That’s despite Thailand’s stunning run through the group stage of the aborted qualifier in which they beat Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and the USA and sat atop of the standings of Group B.
The qualifying event was due to run for another week but ended abruptly after new travel restrictions were imposed on southern Africa following the emergence of the Omicron variant.
With the Super Sixes stage of the tournament unable to be played (or rescheduled), the three highest-ranked teams in the ICC's ODI rankings at the cut-off date of September 30 progressed to the main event under the tournament's playing conditions.
Thailand do not have ODI status and therefore do not have an ODI ranking.
The ICC announced in April the women’s teams of all Full Member nations would be awarded ODI (and Test) status, but for Thailand, whose progress in the women’s game has far outstripped that of its men’s side, the only route to ODI status would have been through qualification for the Championship.
The ICC in 2018 appeared to suggest all matches at World Cup Qualifier events would be considered full ODIs after then-CEO Geoff Richardson admitted previous events in which some matches did have ODI status and others did not was “confusing for fans”.
But it then became apparent that ruling did not apply to women’s cricket.
It would not have changed anything for Thailand given the September 30 cut-off applied when the event could not be completed, but it did mean both they and the USA prematurely celebrated their debut ODIs before the clarification came from the ICC several days into the tournament.
HISTORY MAKERS! The starting XI for #TeamUSA🇺🇸 as today we become the 21st nation to play Women's One Day International cricket #BANvUSA🇧🇩🇺🇸 #WCWCqualifiers🏆 pic.twitter.com/NyvPTg5OXB— USA Cricket (@usacricket) November 23, 2021
The cancellation means the Thai women not only will not play at the next World Cup, but they also missed the chance to join the ICC Women’s Championship (IWC), which would have guaranteed them nine series over the coming years and extra funding.
The number of teams in the third cycle of the IWC will increase from eight to 10, and the top five teams at the end of the qualifying event would have claimed spots in the Championship, joining Australia, New Zealand, England, India and South Africa.
The Championship, which determines automatic ODI World Cup qualification, sees each of the 10 sides play one another in a three-game bilateral series across a four-year period, with two points on offer for each win.
Importantly, it adds structure to the women's future tours program by ensuring regular matches and tours across the calendar for the competing teams, and the chance for lower-ranked teams to more regularly play the likes of Australia, England and India.
Bangladesh, Pakistan, West Indies, Ireland and Sri Lanka were awarded those spots, also by virtue of their ODI rankings.
Next year’s tournament will be the first time Bangladesh will appear at the quadrennial World Cup, while Sri Lanka will be absent from the event for the first time since making their debut in 1997.
The truncated end to the event has further highlighted the vastly different circumstances of each of the competing teams, which had already been thrown into focus leading into the tournament.
Ireland went more than three years without playing an ODI between 2018 and this October, and Sri Lanka had not played a single game in any format since the group stage of the last T20 World Cup in March 2020 – droughts that cost both sides the opportunity to improve their place in the ODI rankings.
Bangladesh were also inactive in the 50-over format since the start of the pandemic until an ODI series against Zimbabwe earlier this month, but had the advantage of already sitting above Sri Lanka and Ireland on the ODI charts.
The qualifier itself was reduced to nine teams before it even began when Papua New Guinea were forced to withdraw after a slew of COVID-19 infections in their camp, with insufficient players available to form a squad.
"We are incredibly disappointed to have to cancel the remainder of this event but with travel restrictions from a number of African countries being imposed at such short notice, there was a serious risk that teams would be unable to return home," ICC head of events Chris Tetley said.
"We have explored a number of options to allow us to complete the event but it isn't feasible and we will fly the teams out of Zimbabwe as soon as possible."