Amid all the hype in England ahead of the Cricket World Cup there's an underlying sense the tournament is doing the sport just as much harm as good.

While Brits are giddy over the possibility their most dynamic ODI squad ever assembled will secure a maiden World Cup triumph and Aussie supporters wait to see what impact the returning Steve Smith and David Warner will have, a dark cloud is hovering over the showpiece event and no gust of wind will be able to blow it away.

The captains of each of the 10 teams taking part in the World Cup gathered in London this week for a media event but the promotional exercise — and the photo below — actually highlighted a problem plaguing the tournament that has upset fans.

Four fewer teams are competing at this year's World Cup than there were at the 2015 edition in Australia and New Zealand. Not since 1992 — when nine countries took part — have there been this few nations fighting it out for the silverware.

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The slashing of participants to 10 means associate nations like Ireland, Scotland, Kenya, Canada, Zimbabwe, Bermuda and The Netherlands — all countries that have competed in recent World Cups — have been denied the chance to strut their stuff.

Twelve countries played in the 1996 and 1999 World Cups, there were 14 in 2003, 2011 and 2015 and in 2007, 16 nations graced cricket's biggest stage. But instead of using the World Cup to grow the game, this time it's shrunk.

The ICC's decision to cull the number of teams sparked a backlash when it was announced and the lingering resentment has found a second wind as the start date approaches. ESPN Cricinfo journalist Melinda Farrell tweeted her disappointment at there being two fewer teams now than at the last World Cup England hosted in 1999, while former Cricinfo writer Brydon Coverdale also weighed in.

Cricket writer Vithushan Ehantharajah tweeted earlier this year a 10-team World Cup was "nonsense" while in March England fast bowler Jimmy Anderson told BBC 5 Live Sport: "It's unfair that not more associate nations can play in this."

A couple of months ago the CEO of Ireland Cricket Warren Deutrom said 10 teams wasn't enough and Nepalese leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane — who played club cricket in Sydney after catching Michael Clarke's eye and represented the Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League — is of the same opinion.


"Sorry to say but a 10-team World Cup will hurt a lot of players like me who will not be a part of it," he told AFP last month. "I think there should be 14-16 teams in the World Cup.

"World Cups come after every four years and teams can achieve their biggest dreams there. We are an emerging nation and this is something we would love to play for our country."

The argument for expanding the tournament is it gives emerging nations their best opportunity to develop. By playing against high quality players and teams, they learn valuable lessons about what's needed to reach the next level and the added exposure that comes with playing at a World Cup makes it easier to grow the game in countries where cricket is hardly a top tier sport.

By snubbing minnows, many believe cricket is shooting itself in the foot and failing those it should be serving. As a report by the Associated Press (AP) says: "At a time when the Rugby World Cup wants to add four more teams and the Olympics added five new sports, reducing numbers in cricket's showpiece is contrary to administrative mantras about developing the global game."

In a piece for The Guardian last year, cricket writer Tim Wigmore argued: "The 2019 World Cup will, like having a full English breakfast without bacon or hash browns, be only half complete. It will still anoint a world champion; it just won't celebrate and promote cricket around the world."

So why the thinking that, in 2019, less is more? According to AP it's because India, England and Australia "led a demand in 2010 for 'more competitive' World Cups by reducing the field to the size of the Champions Trophy. That way, they could ensure that, as the favourite teams for TV and advertisers, they would be in the tournament for at least a month of the six-week saga".

In 2015 when the decision was made to knock down the number of teams, then ICC boss Dave Richardson mentioned "commercial implications" and "viewing figures" as factors taken into consideration when implementing the change.

The reduction is as much a blow for fans as it is for associate nations who will be watching the World Cup from the outside. There'll be no repeat of famous moments like Ireland's Kevin O'Brien belting 113 off 63 balls to upset England in 2011 or big Dwayne Leverock launching himself sideways to take a one-handed screamer for Bermuda 12 years ago in the Caribbean.

It's up to the big boys to provide all the entertainment now.