The rules of the ICC Cricket World Cup have never really stopped evolving since the first 1975 tournament. The tournament rules, qualifying system, and game rules have often been amended between cups. One of the most visible changing elements has been the number of teams that qualify into the tournament.
In the 2015 edition, the number of qualified teams was at a historical high, when 14 teams in two groups participated. For the 2019 cup, the amount was reduced to only 10, and the same amount is meant to be used in the 2023 cup hosted by India.
The Controversy of the Rules Change
The change that took place in 2015 has not gone uncontested. The need to change the rules in itself drew criticism, as the constant modifications to competition rules is seen as eroding the credibility of the game.
The change was likely done because the event had become very long and difficult to organise. The 21st-century tournaments averaged over 50 matches and took up to a month and a half, which was seen as an excess. The championships had become difficult to market to new demographics as they were very complicated and occasionally dull to follow.
The solution was to reduce the participating countries. This did make the tournaments easier to follow but had the downside of excluding smaller teams that find it challenging to qualify.
It is sometimes argued that this solution makes it difficult to expand the popularity of cricket beyond the few British ex-colonies where it has traditionally been popular. The game becomes less diverse, as the full members of ICC continue to dominate all the tournaments entirely.
Furthermore, excluding the smaller teams also eliminates the excitement of black horses emerging. For instance, Kenya, in the 2003 cup and Ireland in 2007, are often cited as examples of small teams punching over their weight, winning over much stronger and more experienced teams.