The island of Bermuda is home to approximately 66,000 people. On Thursday, as news of the national cricket team's qualification for the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies filtered through, many of the 66,000 celebrated what is possibly the biggest achievement in the country's sporting history. This was Bermuda's eighth attempt at qualification via the ICC Trophy, and ended nearly three decades of "painful near-misses and depressing underachievement," according to the Royal Gazette. The paper hailed the World Cup qualification as an "unprecedented and tear-inducing triumph."
"Bermuda's cricketers are in a dreamland," wrote James Whittaker in the Bermuda Sun. The team clinched a berth in cricket's quadrennial showpiece after a 113-run thrashing of the USA, one of the pre-tournament favourites for qualification. This makes Bermuda the smallest nation ever, both in area (53 square kilometers) and in population, to participate in the World Cup. Apart from the Caribbean adventure, Bermuda also lands US$500,000 worth of ICC development money, not to mention invaluable exposure through the newly-acquired one-day status.
Bermuda's politicians are also solidly behind their cricket team, promising additional monetary incentives to go with the ICC funds. Alex Scott, the premier, who reportedly "almost jumped out of his chair" upon hearing the news, pledged his support to the Bermuda Cricket Board (BCB). "We are not in a position to give land away to our cricketers like they do in the West Indies," Dale Butler, Bermuda's sports minister, was quoted as saying in the Sun, "but I am sure we can do something for them."
But Thursday belonged entirely to the players. Clay Smith, the captain, was forced to sit out the USA game through injury, but was among many in his team who wept with joy at the epoch-making victory. "A lot of us have wanted this all of our lives," he told the Gazette. "All our lives we've worked for this one moment, and it's just too emotional, unbelievable, totally unbelievable." And Dwayne 'Sluggo' Leverock, the left-arm spinner who took four wickets for 39 in ten testing overs against the Americans, called up his mother first to give her the news. "Mama we're going World Cup! Get ready! Get ready!" he exulted, to which Mrs. Leverock's response was: "My suitcase is already packed."
The story so far:
1979 (England) Bermuda top their group with three wins and a no-result. In the semi-final, they lose to eventual qualifiers Canada by four wickets.
1982 (England) Bermuda again top their group with six wins and a no-result. And again, they lose to eventual qualifiers Zimbabwe.
1986 (England) Three times unlucky. Bermuda finish top of their group for a third successive time, and again lose to Zimbabwe in the semi-finals. Zimbabwe make the World Cup.
1990 (Holland) One win and two losses see Bermuda crash out early - their worst showing in the ICC Trophy.
1994 (Kenya) Bermuda clean-sweep their group, and finish second in the next group phase behind UAE. They lose to Kenya in the semi-finals and to Holland in the third- place playoff match. The teams that qualify? UAE, Kenya and Holland.
1997 (Malaysia) Two wins and two losses ensure that Bermuda miss out on the 1999 World Cup as well.
2001 (Canada) Bermuda finish behind Ireland and USA on net run-rate. A loss to Namibia seals their fate.
2005 (Ireland) After losing to the host nation and fellow-qualifiers Ireland, Bermuda win three matches out of four to seal qualification. The other game against Uganda is rained off.