Steve Massiah, the USA captain, is confident his side can get back to the top of the Associates after spending most of the past three years in the wilderness. And that road to redemption begins with the World Cricket League Division 5 which gets underway in Jersey on May 23.
Massiah, 28, captains the USA in Group A of the tournament, where they will face the hotchpotch collection of Germany, Mozambique, Nepal, Norway and Vanuatu. Meanwhile Group B features Afghanistan, Bahamas, Botswana, Japan, Jersey and Singapore.
"I believe we have a very, very good chance of going all the way and getting back to the top," Massiah said. "But we are not taking any of the other teams lightly. We're going to go there and take it very seriously, play positive cricket and hopefully get through to the next level.
"At the time we were excluded from international cricket (in 2005 and again in 2007) we were playing with the top Associates and now we are down near the bottom. But as I told the guys, I think it could be a blessing in disguise as it gives us a chance to generate a bit of team spirit and will hopefully allow us to assess the players and figure out what our best combinations are."
In April, the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA) was re-recognised as an Associate Member of the ICC. USACA had been suspended for a second time by the ICC in March 2007 after failing to meet a number of conditions, including constructing a new constitution, and to hold elections for a board of directors. All these goals have now been achieved following a process overseen by the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and, following a report presented to the ICC, the suspension was lifted. Now, however, they face their first major test on the field and Massiah is chomping at the bit to get back into it.
"I am happy with the preparations so far. It has been easier for the guys in the warmer parts of the country," he said. "We had a really productive training camp down in Florida and I think we have put together a well-balanced side with some experienced players and some exciting young talent. I really don't know anything about the other teams in the tournament but I am looking forward to getting over there and back into international cricket. It has been a long wait and everybody is really excited waiting for the first game."
The tournament will match some unlikely pairings, however, with Massiah's men set to face teams from as diverse places as the heartland of central Europe to the foothills of the Himalayas and the remote Pacific islands. Germany, coached by Keith Thompson, have their first opportunity to pit their skills against opposition from outside Europe since the ICC Trophy in 2001.
The team secured its spot after being ranked third in the European Championships Division 2 event last year. Mozambique qualified for this event at the ICC World Cricket League Africa Region Division 2 tournament and will be captained by the middle-order batsman Muhammed Shoaib Younus.
Nepal are an up-and-coming side in world cricket and, having done well in the past two Under-19 World Cups the future looks bright. Of the side that got to the Plate Championship final in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year, Paras Khadka, Gyanendra Malla, Mahesh Chhetri and Amrit Bhattarai have all graduated to the senior squad for the WCL Div. 5.
The 12-team event will be staged across six venues and will take the format of two groups of six with the top two from each section progressing to the knock-out stage. The finalists from this tournament will be promoted to the World Cricket League Division 4, joining Hong Kong, Fiji, Tanzania and Italy in a six-team event that will take place in Dar es Salaam from October 4.
From there, the top two teams from that tournament will progress to the third division of the World Cricket League in Argentina next January, followed by the World Cup Qualifier next year. And, finally, at the end of that tournament, the top four Associate or Affiliate teams will be booking their places at the 2011 World Cup.