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The 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean is still 12 months away, and yet thoughts are already turning to the 2011 World Cup. Although the host nation has yet to be confirmed, a qualifying tournament begins on Wednesday in the unlikely setting of Paramaribo, Suriname.
Whether any of the 243,500 inhabitants of the capital of this former Dutch colony on the northern coast of South America show interest is debatable. However, for two countries famous for feats in football's showpiece event, it will be their first foray in a cricket World Cup qualifier.

Brazil and Chile will make their debuts this week in the ICC-sanctioned one-day internationals at the Americas region Division Three tournament, competing with the Turks & Caicos Islands (population 20,556) and Suriname for a place at the Division Three tournament in Argentina in April.

Brazil will be captained by former England Under-19 and Kent cricketer Matt Featherstone, while Rubab Islam will open the bowling - provided he returns from the lunch break; he was once spotted in a shopping centre when he was due to play in a domestic match. Two Brazilian-born players and one naturalised Brazilian feature in the 14 man squad.

Guy Hooper, the Chile captain, was reportedly once hailed by the Times newspaper as one of the best schoolboy slip fielders in England. For Chile he will keep wicket. Hooper will lead a squad of which three players were born and bred in Chile and one of those, Enrique Salas, once played semi-professional baseball in Australia.

Suriname, bordering Guyana, will of course field a squad with a distinctly West Indian feel to it. All matches will be played on compact clay pitches.

ACC Emerging Nations tournament
The Maldives begin their ACC Emerging Nations Trophy title defence today against Thailand at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club. Bangkok was the venue for the Maldives' success last year when, led heroically by captain Moosa Kaleem just a matter of weeks following the 2004 Tsunami, they defeated Thailand to win the country's first cricket tournament.

After being swept into the sea by the Tsunami, Kaleem survived to score two centuries and an historic double century in last year's quadrangular held at the same venue. His 217 against Brunei in last year's tournament is believed to be the highest individual score in an international between non-Test countries.

The chance of a repeat are minimised by the withdrawal of Brunei for this event after the recent monsoon season decimated their preparations. The Maldives come into the tournament well prepared following a three match visit to Colombo.

Playing at home on the highly regarded turf wickets of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club, Pakistani-born all-rounder Zeeshan Khan will lead a Thai team including three locally born players. The Thais opened the tournament yesterday (February 12) against a youthful Bhutan side - whose average age is 19 - and are all born in the mountainous Kingdom.

Captain Damber Singh Gurung, an all-rounder who opens the bowling for an attack which is the team's strength along with its fielding.

Middle Eastern Cup
The winner of the Bangkok tournament will meet the champions of the Middle Eastern Cup, which is being held this week in Kuwait. Asad Baig, an official from the Kuwait Cricket Association (KCA), told Beyond the Test World that Afghanistan are favourites to win their first international tournament, also featuring Bahrain, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

"Kuwait has a few players out of the country through work," he said.

A round-robin starts on Feburary 17 before the final on February 24 and, remarkably, the tournament will be staged on four turf wickets - two situated next to a desalination plant at Ahmadi in the south of the country. In the coming weeks, we'll have domestic news from Belize, the Cayman Islands, the South Atlantic outpost of St.Helena, as well as Oman, Qatar and European escapades from Australia.

If it's the cricket season in your country and has not been featured on BTTW, please don't hesitate to email me, Tony Munro.