Cricket is a global game these days and the advent of T20 has widened the family. The countries with full Test status may remain limited but the growing list of T20 Associate playing nations has helped to expand the sport.
How Many Countries Play Cricket Around the World?
Cricket is played in some form in most countries around the world but there are currently 106 national teams that are affiliated in some way to the ICC.
The International Cricket Council is the governing body responsible for sanctioning certain countries to play official matches in any of the three main formats.
List of Cricket Playing Countries
As of 2022 there are 12 full member countries of the ICC. These are the only teams who are currently able to play official test matches.
These countries are:
- Australia (1909 – Founding Member)
- England (1909 – Founding Member)
- South Africa (1909 – Founding Member)
- India (1926)
- New Zealand (1926)
- West Indies (1926)
- Pakistan (1952)
- Sri Lanka (1981)
- Zimbabwe (1992)
- Bangladesh (2000)
- Afghanistan (2017)
- Ireland (2017)
The International Cricket Council was formed in June 1909 and Australia, England and South Africa were the three original founder members. Australia and England had competed in the first ever official test match in Melbourne in 1877 while the South Africans made their test debut in 1889.
Growth was slow from this point until the list of test playing nations was expanded to six when India, New Zealand and the West Indies joined the ICC in 1926. Following South Africa’s exclusion from international sport in the 1970s, the list dropped to five before Sri Lanka joined in 1981.
The South Africans were readmitted in 1992 and, in the same year, Zimbabwe came on board. Cricket in Bangladesh had been strong for many years and the country became a full member of the ICC in 2000.
A long gap followed but from the start of the new millennium, cricket in Afghanistan and Ireland started to make progress. Both countries had enjoyed some success in limited overs cricket and they were both finally admitted as the most recent full member teams in 2017.
Associate Cricket Countries with ODI Membership
The first supplementary list of countries shows those teams that can officially play One Day International cricket. In alphabetical order this time, these are:
- Papua New Guinea
- United Arab Emirates
- United States
Most of those teams have appeared in ODI World Cups and they have made some impression at this level. Scotland also recorded a famous victory over England in 2019 and the Scots will feel that they can make the step up to full member status.
Of those teams, the Netherlands have traditionally been the strongest and they make regular appearances in ODI World Cups. Their most notable triumph came in the 2009 T20 World Cup when the Dutch team beat hosts England.
Namibia are also strong and qualified for the 2021 T20 World Cup. Nepal and Oman could be ones to watch in the future and both are developing exciting young players.
Other nations in that list continue to develop and it will be fascinating to see how they grow in the years that follow.
List of All Associate Cricket Countries
The introduction of T20 cricket was a positive move for the global game. The fast-paced nature of T20s saw a whole new audience switch on to the sport and this format was perfect for those countries who were developing the game.
In order to help with that development, the ICC granted T20 international status to a wide set of nations. Any games that they play at international level are considered to be official T20is and the countries concerned are as follows:
- Cayman Islands
- Cook Islands
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- Falkland Islands
- Hong Kong
- Isle of Man
- Saint Helena
- Saudi Arabia
- Sierra Leone
- South Korea
- Turks and Caicos Islands
The majority of these countries became affiliated with the ICC from the late 1990s onwards. However, since T20 cricket was first played in 2003, the list has rapidly increased.
Many of those countries have been playing cricket for years and some have produced some exceptional individual players. Tim David, who represents Singapore, is currently playing for T20 franchises across the world.
It will also be interesting to follow China and other Asian countries who are starting to provide financial backing. The USA also has a huge population and the introduction of Major League Cricket in 2023 will boost their challenges.
Mainland Europe now enjoys TV exposure of their continental leagues so we should keep an eye on the likes of Germany, France, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Russia in the years that follow.
Those teams tend to play official T20 internationals amongst themselves and will rarely get the chance to play the full member sides. Because of this, there hasn’t really been a major upset in the T20 arena involving one of these associate nations.
However, a structure is in place which will allow them to grow and to maybe rise through the ICC ranks.
I think that the ICC have got things right here by including so many of those countries as associated T20 teams. Clearly they are not ready for test cricket but by having official competition, they have the incentive to improve.
There is the possibility of progressing through the system and, by having the platform in place, the ICC can help to grow cricket all around the world.