The ICC had initially planned to cut the number of teams participating in the tournament ??? which will be hosted by England ??? from 14 to 10.
Had the current tournament been played under those rules, UAE, Scotland, Afghanistan and Ireland would be present.
But the four associate sides have played well so far, far exceeding expectations.??
Ireland have already beaten the West Indies, Afghanistan pushed Sri Lanka all the way, Scotland gave New Zealand a far better game than England did, whilst the UAE only lost to the Irish in the final over.
Richardson admitted: “I’ve learnt never to say never to anything. I’m sure the format of the next World Cup will be debated after this one has finished.
“I’m pleased with the performances of the qualifiers so far, but the bigger tests are still to come.”
Richardson did say however that there are sound reasons for considering a cut.
“The question is what do you want the World Cup to be? Do you want it to be a jamboree of world cricket or the pinnacle of the one-day game?” he said.
“Heading into this tournament there was criticism that the format (where 14 teams are split into two groups of seven, with the top four in each pool qualifying for the quarter-finals) would leave us with a long group stage at the end of which the eight teams everyone thought would get through had made it into the quarter-finals.”
Asked what his feelings were following the initially improved showing by the four associate sides taking part in Australia and New Zealand, Richardson said: “There’s a sense of relief. Our biggest concern before the tournament was that these teams would be uncompetitive.”
Richardson said the thinking in reducing the number of teams had been motivated by the experience of the 1992 World Cup, when the tournament was last staged in Australia and New Zealand.
According to Richardson, the 1992 event had the “best format” of any of cricket’s 11 World Cups, with the then nine competing sides all playing each other with the top four from the round-robin phase going straight into the semi-finals.
“The best format was 1992,” said Richardson, South Africa’s wicketkeeper at that World Cup. “You had nine teams, then the semi-finals. There was something up for grabs in every match.”
However, Steve Waugh, Australia’s former World Cup-winning captain, was among those concerned by a reduction in the number of sides competing at the 2019 World Cup, telling Friday’s Sydney Morning Herald: “It is definitely important to have the minnow countries to grow the game in different markets.
“The World Cup of soccer has 32 countries. Cricket needs more than eight teams playing.???