The crowd at New Delhi's Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium witnessed an occurrence which may become a rarity earlier this week as minnows Afghanistan had England on the ropes at the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Twenty20 tournament in India.

The war-ravaged country, whose cricketing history is barely 15-years-old, had taken three wickets in an over to leave England, one of the game’s dominant forces both on and off the field, teetering on the brink of total collapse.

Eoin Morgan’s men were stunned. Afghanistan were delirious. Could the unthinkable happen?

It got even more likely a few overs later when 42-4 became 57-6 yet for all the promise, the victory never materialised for the Afghans as England rallied to get themselves out of a deepening hole.

While they went on to record a comfortable win which kept their pursuit of a semi-final place alive - at one point they truly looked dead and buried - that brief spell of sheer dominance from a so-called lesser nation provided a perfect example of why the ICC are wrong to cut the amount of teams at the 50-over World Cup from 14 to 10 for the competition in England and Wales in three years’ time.

The change will effectively limit the appearances of the associate sides - the teams who play internationally but do not compete in the Test format - in cricket’s quadrennial 50-over showpiece, thus greatly hindering their future development.

One of the central purposes of governing bodies is to protect the sport they rule yet the ICC appear to be doing the exact opposite. They are causing huge detriment to the emerging teams and giving those in cricket’s upper echelons even more exposure, and with that comes a greater slice of the revenues and profits from the global game.

You can imagine the scenario in the ICC Boardroom - the associates don’t make us money, so what’s the point?

The ICC themselves must be aware of the damage they are causing. In fact, back in October 2014, following vehement protests from practically everyone within the tight-knit cricketing fraternity, they performed a dramatic u-turn and opted to revert back to 14 teams for the 2015 World Cup after they had announced in 2011 that the next two tournaments would be made up of 10 sides.

Afghanistan are pressing the case on behalf of the associate members this time around and they also had a helping hand in performing the role during last year’s World Cup competition, along with the likes of Ireland, Scotland, The Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates.

Their displays in Australia and New Zealand got everyone talking, though this was for good and bad reasons.

Afghanistan’s clash with Scotland, for example, yielded a thrilling contest but the game itself was bereft of quality. The fact that they were both associate teams was made horrifically obvious – the scores were low, the batting woeful and the bowling wayward.

Yet it was sporting entertainment at its finest; drama, tension and plenty of excitement made for an absorbing match that will remain long in the memory.

The Afghans then went on to play superbly in a four-wicket loss to Sri Lanka - winners in 1999 and runners up during the 2011 edition - and Ireland demonstrated their capabilities on more than one occasion with a never-say-die mantra which won them fans and plaudits alike.

In spite of all the countless reasons why they were making the wrong call - like a captain who opts to bat on a pitch where the ball is always likely to seam, swing and hoop around like nobody’s business – ICC chief executive David Richardson confirmed they were pressing ahead with the four-team cut for the event in 2019 before last year's tournament had even reached its conclusion.

“There are lots of commercial implications to consider,” he said when announcing the news. “We also need to have a look at the attendances at all the associate games, what were the viewing figures, and see where they really stand.”

In fairness to the ICC, who are often criticised for their over reliance on the powerful triumvirate of Australia, England and India, the 2011 tournament had provided them with plenty of evidence that a reduced number of teams at future competitions was the way forward as Kenya, Canada and the Dutch were all humbled and comfortably beaten by the Test-playing behemoths.

It could be argued, however, that how they fare is a mere irrelevance amid a far grander plan of gaining experience of how the top players go about their work, about how to perform at the highest level and what makes a truly great cricket team.

Exposure to improved conditions and tougher opposition can only benefit those second-tier countries. Take a look at rugby, for example, as emerging countries such as Georgia, Romania, Argentina and Japan continue to thrive and prosper because they have been given the platform to do so.

The same could be said about representing your country at the Olympic Games. It is just the top percentile of athletes who head to participate on the grandest stage of them all expecting to be draped with a medal around their neck - the vast majority go there for the experience only an Olympics can provide.

What makes no sense from an ICC standpoint is that more competitive associate teams goes to serve their best interests; they can only benefit from an improved standard from the lesser sides as it would, in theory, provide a more attractive spectacle to punters and television companies alike.

Afghanistan are certainly proving they are far more than a cricketing minnow. Yes, their participation at the ICC World Twenty20 in India will come to an end when they take on Chris Gayle’s West Indies in a dead rubber in Nagpur tomorrow, but ask any one of those who have turned out for the Asian country over the last few weeks or so and you can bet your bottom dollar they would do it all over again.

Their opposition would also buy into that theory, too. Even England, so nearly the subject of one of the biggest shocks in cricket history, will have been impressed by what they faced out in the middle and will hope their epic meeting in New Delhi wasn’t the last.

Some of the game’s most well-known and well-respected past and present players are also in the associates' corner, with former England captain Michael Vaughan - never one who is afraid to voice his opinion - calling on world cricket’s governing body to reverse their decision concerning the 50-over format.

“Just a reminder that this might be the last WC we see Afghanistan ... Come on @ICC change your mind ... Let's grow the game #ICC2016,” he tweeted. Yes, the World Twenty20 and World Cup are different competitions but the sentiment remains the same.

While the ICC bigwigs maintain their blatant plutocracy, teams such as Afghanistan continue to play the game with a smile on their faces. In fact, their facial expressions told their own story following the defeat to England; they were genuinely gutted to have lost when usually they are just happy to be there.

It’s a shame they won’t be there much longer.