High hopes for European Cricket
The announcement that the ICC is to expand the World Cricket League (WCL) to five divisions is great news for European Cricket.
The expansion will see a total of seven Associates and Affiliates from the Europe Region compete in the WCL. New additions Norway and Jersey are set to join the European top five teams who already compete in the competition.
Ireland, Netherlands and Scotland will participate in Division 1 in Kenya in January next year, and Denmark compete in Division 2 which is planned for Namibia in November 2007.
A change in venue for Division 3 moves the competition from the USA to Darwin, Australia in May/June 2007. Italy is grouped in Group B of this league alongside Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Hong Kong, whilst Group A is made up of USA, Uganda, Cayman Islands and Tanzania.
Elsewhere Norway and Jersey have been announced in the final three teams to be added into Division 5 alongside Singapore. Norway fall into Group A and will face Afghanistan, Nepal and Argentina. Jersey, granted entry into the league after finishing runners-up to Norway in the European Division 2 Championship in Glasgow this year, will compete in Group B against Singapore, Botswana and a country from the East Asia Pacific region.
The host nation is yet to be announced, but will be from amongst the participants and exact dates and venues will be released by the ICC in due course.
The news is great for the Jersey Cricket Board, whose senior cricketers thought their next chance of international competition would be in the European Championships in 2008.
Cricket Jersey’s Director of Cricket, Chris Minty, says that it will give his players something to focus on and work hard towards. “We have no idea what to expect, just as was the case when we competed in the European Division 2 in Glasgow in August this year. The team can only hope to play as well as they can and see what happens.”
The League expansion also gives the Division 5 countries a glimmer of hope in qualifying for the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup. The top two teams from Division 5 will gain promotion to Division 4, to be held later in 2008, and the top two from that competition then progress to Division 3 in 2009. The winner and runner-up of Division 3 then qualify for the ICC World Cup Qualifier, which could result in qualification into the 2011 Cricket World Cup.
This provides Affiliate and Associate countries with a pathway through from competing in the lowest division of the World Cricket League right the way up to the dizzy heights of playing in the World Cup.
Susan Lowrey European Cricket Council
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa