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Myanmar to join the ranks
The cynics are calling it the replacement of one rogue state by another. Should last week's forecasts of Zimbabwe's exit from international cricket eventuate, numerically at least it may be replaced by that pariah of international politics - Myanmar.
Formerly known as Burma before its military junta changed its name, Myanmar is set to become the International Cricket Council's 97th member when its application for Affiliate membership is voted on in June. Unlike Zimbabwe, Myanmar's amateur expatriate cricket officials are not connected to the country's repressive government. Myanmar will be the only new country to the ICC's membership ranks, while current affiliates Malawi and Vanuatu are seeking Associate status.
The introduction of the World Cup Qualifying Series (WCQS) has seen a growth in the number of Associates as that status is no longer the sole criteria for participation in the ICC Trophy. Associates and Affiliates now contest places in the ICC Trophy equally through regional tournaments.
Tournaments to be held for World Cricket League
While on World Cup Qualifying Series, it's going to be a busy year for the non-Test world's national team players.
Each of the ICC's development regions will hold qualifying tournaments to contribute one team each to Divison Three of next year's World Cricket League (WCL) where they will join the United States, Papua New Guinea and Uganda, the last three place getters in the 2005 ICC Trophy.
Eight tournaments will be held this year in locations as diverse as Paramaribo, Suriname to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. The roadshow starts in Paramaribo from February 12-19 when Turks & Caicos Islands, with a population of 20,556, face the hosts Suriname and World Cup debutantes Brazil and Chile.
The winner proceeds to the Americas Division Two tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina from April 2-9 involving the host as well as Bahamas, Belize and Panama. Canada, the United States, the Cayman Islands and Bermuda awaits the victor from the Buenos Aires tournament in Toronto from July 16-23. Canada and Bermuda have already qualified for the World League Division One to be played in January, 2007. The next placed other team from Toronto will play in the WCL Division Three.
The African path starts on April 23-30 in Benoni, South Africa when Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Morocco, Ghana, Gambia, Sierra Leone and Rwanda contest the African Affiliates qualifying tournament. The format will involve two groups and cross-over semi-finals.
The winner contests the African Associates qualifying tournament in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania from August 13-19 also involving Botswana, Tanzania, Nigeria and Zambia. The successful team from Dar Es Salaam proceeds to the WCl Division Three as well as competing in the Africa Cup.
Namibia, by finishing seventh at the 2005 ICC Trophy, has been placed in next year's Division 2 WCL tournament while Uganda, will contest WCL Division 3 based on its 2005 ICC Trophy placing.
The Africa Cup, unrelated to the WCL, will be contested some time this year in South Africa by South Africa "A", Zimbabwe "A", Kenya, Namibia, Uganda and the winner from the Dar Es Salaam tournament.
Myanmar may debut at the ACC Trophy tentatively slated for August. The Asian Cricket Council website implies it may be an 18-team event.
East Asia-Pacific's representative at WCL Division Three will be decided from June 27 - July 2, 2006 when Fiji, Japan and the Cook Islands contest the EAP Cricket Trophy in Brisbane. Both divisions of the European Championships will be held in Glasgow; the five team First Division starts on August 4 while the eight team Second Division starts on August 3 with both tournaments concluding on August 9.
The England Cricket Board XI has been disbanded and will no longer compete in the European Championships.
The ECC wants to create five divisions of six teams by 2008. To accomodate this the winner of Division Two this year will be promoted to Division One while the eighth team will be relegated to Division Three.
Division Two will comprise Group A (France, Israel, Norway and Jersey) and Group B (Germany, Gibraltar, Greece and Guernsey). There will be semi-finals, play-offs for rankings and finals.
Cyprus will make its international debut at the ECC European Division Four titles from August 26-30 in Belgium against the Czech Republic, Finland, Luxembourg and Slovenia.
The expanding national team schedules will challenge the resources of both national associations and the players themselves. Because the average person (and more importantly, employer) in many of the participating countries is ignorant of cricket, releasing their employer to a national team is not as beneficial to the company as say a football or rugby union player.
West Africa make positive progress
Against a backdrop of a generally aging player base throughout the region, the second West African under-15 championships was held in November producing positive omens.
While local powerhouses Nigeria (second) and Sierra Leone (third) performed credibly with totally indigenous teams, the welcome surprise came from Ghana and Gambia.
A rejuvenated Ghana reversed years of stagnation, thanks to its development programme to win its three matches and clinch the tournament title. Gambia, who several years ago barely possessed a cricketer under 40 was, as the clich goes, victorious in participation.
In the next few weeks we will update you on the Chilean season, news from Taiwan and Mali, preview the ACC Emerging Nations tournament, news on Associate countries' Under 19 World Cup preparations and more.
If you'd like to contribute news from your country or comment on any aspect of this column, please email Tony Munro on firstname.lastname@example.org