Captains look for World Cup build-up at WCL Division One
The captains of Ireland, Canada and Netherlands admitted there is plenty at stake for their sides as the ICC World Cricket League gets underway in Netherlands on July 1. Ireland launch their title defence on the opening day against former champions Kenya, while last year's runners-up Canada face Afghanistan; the hosts clash with Scotland.
Ireland captain Trent Johnston believed the tournament was a good opportunity to launch his side's World Cup preparations. "I think Phil Simmons and the selectors are pretty happy with the side we have here. I think it is a good opportunity for the players to put themselves forward for a place in next year's World Cup squad," Johnston said.
"We have probably got five or six of the regulars here and rest of the guys are trying to put themselves up for further selection. We are in sort of a rebuilding stage, I suppose, before the tournament in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh."
Johnston also saw the event as a stepping stone for the younger generation of cricketers in his squad. "We have a couple of guys who will be making their debuts, hopefully at some stage during the tournament. Craig Young, Andrew Bilbirnie, George Dockwell and Paul Stirling played in the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand earlier this year. They are now in the senior squad and it is a fantastic achievement for Irish cricket to see these guys developing and making into the senior ranks," he said.
Johnston was eager for Ireland to retain their status as the top Associate side and challenge the top teams. "I just want to keep Ireland at top of the Associate tree and keep knocking at the door of the big boys above us. We were close to beating Australia a couple of weeks ago and if we can take that sort of commitment and ability on the field and put three disciplines together, we have got a very good chance of lifting the trophy again," he added.
Canada captain Ashish Bagai said his side was brimming with confidence ahead of this year's event. "The 2009 tournament was very important for us as the pressure was obviously higher. We did well and what we can take away from that tournament is the confidence which we can use in this tournament. All the six teams are evenly matched so it is going to be a tough tournament but we believe we have enough gas in our tanks to finish at the top," Bagai said.
Bagai believed the tournament would give him a good idea of his side's progress in cricket's pecking order. "This is a very important tournament for us. It's a milestone and a good checkpoint which we can use to see where we stand and what we need to do in future. It gives us a good time to try out a few youngsters and identify our strengths and weaknesses seven months away from World Cup 2011," he said.
Peter Borren also had the World Cup lead-up in his sights, but nothing short of victory in the WCL Division One would do for the hosts. "It is a home tournament and obviously, at the back of our minds is the World Cup but at this stage the most important thing is to win the tournament," Borren said.
"We have to win games of cricket and let's try to put 100 overs of quality cricket together. It's always a challenge and it will be the same for all the teams here. I have no doubt that at times during this tournament we'll see some fantastic innings played by the Netherlands top six or seven batsmen. I also have no doubts that at times our bowling will be sharp.
"It's very often in cricket that you bat very well but let yourself down a little bit with bowling or fielding or the other way round. It has been a challenge for all the Associate sides to put it together for the whole match and our challenge in this tournament will be to be competitive and consistent match after match," Borren said.