The membership of the International Cricket Council is set to swell significantly with a record number of countries submitting applications to join the world governing body.
Nigeria, Tanzania and the Cayman Islands have applied for Associate membership while at least 12 countries seeking Affiliate membership have beat the December 31 deadline.
The applications by Nigeria and Tanzania are at this stage only a request for an inspection visit by the ICC, meaning they will achieve Associate status by 2001 at the earliest.
The Cayman Islands has already received an inspection visit and will have Associate status either confirmed or denied at the June meeting.
Nigeria, along with Gambia, Sierra Leone and Ghana, presently makes up the West African Cricket Conference, while Tanzania, together with Malawi and Zambia, is a member of the East and Central African Cricket Conference.
The Nigerians' application shouldn't face any problems, especially with its high level of indigenous participation. While the Tanzanian national team is dominated by South Asians, ICC officials are understood to be impressed with its junior development programme.
Meanwhile, a record number of countries have applied for Affiliate membership of the ICC. At least 12 countries have submitted applications. Should all be successful, as expected, it will be the single biggest intake since Associate and Affiliate membership was first granted in 1965.
While 'Beyond The Test World has received mixed information regarding the identity of the countries seeking Affiliate membership, they are believed to be Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bhutan, Botswana, Chile, Croatia, Indonesia, Lesotho, the Maldives, New Caledonia, St. Helena, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Yemen.
News of Afghanistan's and Yemen's appplications are particularly welcome as both have established roots. Despite the internal problems, cricket is played across Afghanistan, while Yemen has two all-Arab teams playing in its league - achieved without any outside help whatsoever.