World Cup Qualifiers 2018
PNG's bizarre WC qualifier dilemma
Complex ICC qualification system has Barramundis incentivised to lose in order to retain ODI status
10 March 2018, 02:35 PM AEST
The complex system by which the International Cricket Council awards nations official one-day international status has put Papua New Guinea in the bizarre situation of having a strong incentive to lose their next match.
PNG, a rising force among the second tier of international cricket nations, have lost all three of their World Cup qualifier matches in Zimbabwe so far, a tournament that has important consequences not only for next year's showpiece event but also for which sides are awarded ODI status for the next four-year cycle.
While the dream of making their maiden World Cup appearance has already been dashed, PNG can still retain their ODI status, which has not only symbolic meaning but also brings extra ICC funding and a clearer path to the 2023 World Cup.
In order to keep those perks until 2022, it's now in PNG's best interests to lose their match against the Netherlands on Saturday.
Here's where things get a little complicated.
Let's start with the basics. Sixteen teams at any one time have ODI status, which means that when two of those nations play each other, it counts as an official 'ODI'.
The 12 Test-playing nations – the likes of Australia, England and India – are automatically given ODI status.
By virtue of winning the ICC World Cricket League Championship last December, the Netherlands became the 13th team to earn ODI status for the next four-year cycle.
Of the other nine sides competing at the ongoing World Cup qualifiers, Ireland, West Indies, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan are all full ICC members and need not worry about losing their ODI status.
That leaves five nations – the United Arab Emirates, Scotland, Hong Kong, Nepal and PNG – to fight it out for the three remaining ODI spots. The three nations of these five teams that finish in the highest positions at the qualifier tournament will earn ODI status.
The qualifier tournament will see the top three teams from each five-team group progress to the Super Sixes stage, where they will battle it out for the two vacant spots at next year's World Cup. The four sides that don't qualify for the Super Sixes will instead fight it out for positions 7-10 and, having already lost their first three games, PNG are already certain to find themselves in this play-off for the bottom spots.
As it stands, the UAE, Scotland and Hong Kong are all in a strong position to advance to the Super Sixes and, crucially, that would see them earn the three available spots as an ODI nation.
That would leave PNG out in the cold, but there is a way for the Barramundis to keep their dream of ODI status alive.
If PNG lose to the Netherlands on Saturday and the Dutch defeat the West Indies on Monday, that could see the Netherlands jump ahead of the UAE and earn a spot in the Super Sixes.
Remember, the Netherlands have already earned ODI status. So, even if Scotland and Hong Kong do advance as expected and earn ODI status, the Netherlands advancing to the Super Sixes – at the expense of the UAE – would leave one position as an ODI nation still up for grabs. Such a scenario would leave the UAE, PNG and Nepal to fight it out in the 7-10 playoffs to become the 16th and final team to clinch ODI status.
Got a sore head yet?
Put simply, PNG's immediate prospects for improvement, further opportunities to play the best teams in the world and future World Cup qualification currently hang by a thread.
And unless they lose to the Netherlands, that thread will be cut.
However, there does remain a smaller incentive for PNG to win their remaining matches; the two lowest ranked Associate teams at the qualifier tournament will miss automatic qualification for the next ICC World Cricket League Championship and will instead have to earn their place in the cut-throat ICC World Cricket League Division 2.