Pacifica Cup: Fiji still unconfirmed as draw is released
Fiji is a probable starter for February's inaugural Pacifica Cup tournament in Auckland, New Zealand, despite the host country's decision to extend its ban on sporting teams from the island nation.
The prohibition of representative sporting teams does not extend to international tournaments of which Fiji is an invitee, opening the door for it to attend the International Cricket Council organised and sanctioned event.
However, that could all change should the present Fijian government be perceived to be lenient on those involved earlier this year in the overthrow of the democratically elected government.
Rumours still persist that coup leader, George Speight, will be released from detention. In that event, the Fijian cricket team's chances of playing in the Pacifica Cup will be further jeopardised.
The identity of the competing teams for what is likely to be the biggest boost to South Pacific cricket to date, has been the main issue leading into the tournament.
Ironically, Fiji, along with the Pacific region's only other Associate member, Papua-New Guinea, have been somewhat reluctant to participate, citing lack of quality opposition, while at least one country is displeased with the Associates' involvement fearing their strength.
For the first time in an ICC-organised tournament a team representing a racial group will compete with the inclusion of a New Zealand Maori team.
The invitation to the host countries' first inhabitants fits in with the theme of the tournament In what is being billed as a 'Pacific cricket celebration'.
The Maoris' participation also neatly avoids a bye in Pool B, which features Papua-New Guinea, Samoa, Cook Islands and the Maoris.
Fiji is the top seed in Pool A, also comprising New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Tonga.
The two Associates are by far the most experienced of the eight competing teams, having attended numerous ICC Trophy and ACC Trophy competitions.
New Caledonia and Vanuatu are known to have competed at the cricket section of the South Pacific Games on the odd occasion it has been included on the programme.
Tonga has made two short tours to Australia in the last 12 months, with Samoa and the Cook Islands make their international debuts.
While the New Zealand Maoris are not known to have competed in an international tournament before, its squad is expected to include some cricketers with either inter-provincial or first grade club experience.
The tournament format ensures that all teams play at least four games - three during the pool phase, and at least one other in classification or semi-finals and finals matches.
The losing semi-finalists play in a third-place play-off match, while the third place getter in each group plays the fourth place getter in the other group to see who competes for fifth and sixth place.
The losers of the two cross-over matches contest seventh and eighth places.
In the lead-up to the tournament, 'Beyond The Test World' will preview the chances of each of the seven teams.
Pool A Pool B 1. Fiji 1. Papua New Guinea 2. New Caledonia 2. Samoa 3. Vanuatu 3. Cook Islands 4. Tonga 4. NZ
Thursday 1st February - teams arrive Friday 2nd February - teams practice
Round 1 - Saturday 3rd February Fiji v New Caledonia Colin Maiden Park No. 1 Papua New Guinea v Samoa Colin Maiden Park No. 2 Vanuatu v Tonga Colin Maiden Park No. 3 Cook Islands v NZ Maori Melville Park
Round 2 - Sunday 4th February New Caledonia v Vanuatu Colin Maiden Park No. 1 Samoa v Cook Islands Mt Albert G S Tonga v Fiji Colin Maiden Park No. 2 NZ Maori v Papua New Guinea Colin Maiden Park No. 3
Round 3 - Monday 5th February Vanuatu v Fiji Cornwall Cook Islands v Papua New Guinea Colin Maiden Park No. 1 New Caledonia v Tonga Colin Maiden Park No. 2 Samoa v NZ Maori Colin Maiden Park No. 3
Rest Day - Tuesday 6th February - attendance at Eden Park for One Day International (Day/Night)
Semi-Finals - Wednesday 7th February
Finals Day - Thursday 8th February Final Colin Maiden Park No. 1 Third/Fourth Place Play-off Colin Maiden Park No. 2 Fifth/Sixth Place Play-off Colin Maiden Park No. 3 Seventh/Eighth Place Play-off Cornwall