Woolmer stands by minnows |
Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer believes non-Test playing nations should be at the World Cup despite a series of humiliating results here.
Three of the four heaviest defeats in the history of the World Cup came in the first three days of the 2007 tournament.
Sri Lanka beat Bermuda by 243 runs, South Africa romped to a 221-run win against the Netherlands, in a match reduced to 40 overs each because of rain, while Scotland lost by 202 runs to Australia.
But Woolmer, whose Pakistan side were facing Ireland on Saturday, insists that the Associate member sides, comprised of mostly amateur players, will only improve by being exposed to top level competition.
"My view is that the World Cup is a wonderful incentive for these countries to improve their cricket internally and help grow the game worldwide," Woolmer wrote in his www.cricinfo.com column.
"Ultimately, it's only when the players in those countries are playing regular top-class cricket and are paid professionally that they will start to make inroads into the Full Member nations.
"In addition, players who were born in the high-performance countries but moved overseas with their parents when they were young are now returning to the land of their birth to help with their experience and to try and gain a place in the team with the World Cup as their incentive.
"In fact the ICC has increased the funding 10-fold in order to narrow the gap between the full member countries and the Associates.
"The associate countries have been prepared better for this World Cup than ever before and it has started to show in their performances.
"Ireland, in particular, have shown a rapid improvement, captained by an Australian, Trent Johnston, a medium-fast seamer and, with a number of players who have county experience in England, they have a very good team. Any side underestimating them will be doing themselves few favours."
Woolmer said he was impressed by what he saw of the Irish in their warm-up game against world number one South Africa.
Ireland reduced South Africa to 98 for 8 before Graeme Smith's side escaped with a narrow win.
"That means that their bowling is very disciplined. The Irish have six out of seven lefthanders in the upper order and they are young and fit on the field. They are, in other words, a serious banana skin fixture."