Beyond the Test World June 29, 2004

Persian Gulf - new force in second-tier Asian cricket?

West Indies will prepare for the ICC Champions Trophy later this year with a training camp in Bermuda, and may play the locals, Associate rumblings over finance and membership criteria, who's in and who's out of the squads for next week's Americas's

Welcome to this week's instalment of Beyond The Test World, Wisden CricInfo's regular round-up of news at non-Test level. This week, West Indies will prepare for the ICC Champions Trophy later this year with a training camp in Bermuda, and may play the locals; Associate rumblings over finance and membership criteria; who's in and who's out of the squads for next week's Americas Cup; and is the Persian Gulf the new force in second-tier Asian cricket?

Bermuda is to host the full West Indies squad for a 13-day training camp as part of West Indies' preparations for the Champions Trophy in England in September. The 14-man squad will take part in exhibition games, player appearances and youth clinics along with the routine cricket and fitness training as part of their build-up.

There is also a strong possibility that Bermuda will host a triangular tournament between the West Indies, Barbados and themselves during their stay. Barbados, the current domestic champions, intend to be in Bermuda in early September. West Indies fly out of England following their four-Test series on August 24 and return for the Champions Trophy on September 5.

The news follows glowing feedback from West Indian officials following a visit by a 12-man Venue Assessment Team in Bermuda to assess its bid to be a host venue in the 2007 World Cup. "...Bermuda has demonstrated that it is not only willing but very capable," said Chris Dehring, the CEO and managing director of Cricket World Cup 2007.

Meanwhile, Bermuda have named Clay Smith as their captain for next month's Americas Cup tournament, being held in Bermuda for the first time. Smith will lead Bermuda in its bid to snap up one of three positions open to Western Hemisphere teams for next year's ICC Trophy in Ireland. The fourth-place qualifier will play in the Repechage series in Malaysia in February.

The Bermudians have omitted several players who, on domestic form, would be selected for the national team after their failure to meet certain training and fitness criteria, including Janiero Tucker. The team has been warming up with matches against a touring Lloyds Bank outfit which featured an England under-19 player, thrashing them in the last match by 91 runs.

Naseer Islam, who is based in Washington DC, is the only addition to the squad of the defending champions, the United States, who won the ICC Six Nations Challenge earlier this year. He replaces the injured Rohan Alexander. The squad includes Clayton Lambert, the former West Indies Test batsman, who was pivotal in the Americans' Six Nations campaign. Leon Romario, an opener in the USA's Intercontinental Cup defeat to Canada, was not considered because of clashes with his medical studies.

John Davison, the Canadian captain, has pinpointed Haninder Dhillon as a key player in his team's attempt to regain one-day credibility. Dhillon, who is based in British Columbia, made his debut in the Intercontinental Cup match against the United States in Florida. Davison cites the retirement of Dave Joseph, who was for many years a key pace bowler, and the omission of Sanjay Thuraisingham as the main problem area for the Canadians.

Argentina has been rocked by the loss of up to six front-line players who had appeared in previous national team squads. The team played for the first time under Donny Forrester, the new captain, in two matches against South American XI's recently. His predecessor, Guillermo Kirschbaum, tragically died in April last year from a severe asthma attack. They will field debutants in Estaban McDermott, an offspinner, and Diego Fuller, a wicket-keeper.

The Bahamas have made only minor changes to the team which thrashed the likes of Panama, Belize and Suriname to win the ICC Affiliates tournament earlier this year to qualify for the America's Cup.

The normally amiable Associate Member countries are set to create a stir at this week's round of annual ICC meetings. In preparation for the arrival of representatives of the 28 ICC associate members converging on London, some influential figures in the associate ranks have been seeking the opinions of their colleagues regarding issues central to the associate cause. The associates claim the membership structure and distribution of ICC funding is unfair.

The associates are likely to challenge whether the category of membership should be tied to the version of cricket a country plays internationally (Test or one-day), whether that membership category should determine the share of income a country receives, and whether the weight of a country's vote at the ICC should be determined by the type of cricket a country plays.

The associates point out that the vast majority of the ICC's revenue is derived from the World Cup and Champions Trophy, which associates participate in, yet 75% of it goes to Test-playing members, while 25% is shared among the 28 associates. They also argue whether it is fair to base division of income and voting rights on whether a country has Test status when one day matches are arguably more popular.

The associates are due to discuss these issues in the next 24 hours. It remains to be seen whether this internal discussion transfers to challenging the status quo at this week's meetings. ICC officials are sure to claim some of these issues are old arguments, and that associates are never happy with funding.

Is it the rise of a new force in second tier cricket in Asia or a sign that the qualification rules need revamping? That's the question raised by some after Persian Gulf teams filled all four semi-final spots in last week's ACC Trophy in Kuala Lumpur.

Oman became the first Affiliate to ever qualify for the ICC Trophy after reaching the final of the ACC Trophy, where they lost to the United Arab Emirates. Hong Kong, due to take on Pakistan and Shoaib Akhtar in the Asia Cup later this year, didn't get past the first round, losing to Afghanistan, who were making their first appearance at this level. One unkind South East Asian official labelled the final as Pakistan B v Pakistan C.

Malik Nazir Khan, the Qatar manager, was forthright in finding the cause for the Persian Gulf dominance. "Our cricket is stronger because we have so many players from India, Pakistan etc living and playing in our countries." He was equally clear in rejecting some complaints that the South Asian dominated teams were unrepresentative of the Persian Gulf countries. "I have lived in Qatar for 32 years."

Therein lies the debate - numerically Persian Gulf teams dominated by Arabs would actually be unrepresentative of their country, as South Asians, many secondor third-generation born in the Gulf, outnumber Arabs in several Gulf countries. Incidentally, there have been no suggestions that the ICC residential rules have been violated by any of the competing countries.

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