A superb initiative of the European Cricket Council takes place next week when teams from five countries congregate outside Vienna, Austria for the first ever ECC Representative Festival.
Starting on Monday, weekend cricketers from Finland, Norway, Croatia, Slovenia and the host, Austria, will meet in a tournament designed to cater for Europe's cricket outposts which either do not qualify for or cannot compete in the ECC Trophy.
While Austria has in the past competed in the ECC Trophy, it was a natural choice as initial host of the tournament, through its development role in cricket in eastern and central Europe. The Austrian Cricket Association has shown initiative, including teams from Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Croatia in its domestic Trophy knockout competition.
Outgoing ICC European Development Officer, Nigel Laughton, said that while formal eligibility rules do not apply, it was requested that teams include those who are likely to play a lasting role in cricket in their country.
"I asked that they do not include say, a 47 year old Pakistani who might win the tournament for them but not be around to contribute in the long term," Laughton said.
The teams have responded, with Norway opting for youth over some more accomplished but ahem, mature players. Finland has five Finnish nationals, while Croatia and Slovenia also includes several local born players.
Austria, with its ECC Trophy experience, is the likely favourite, while Norway and Finland would possibly be fancied next on the basis of their superior player numbers over Croatia and Slovenia.
He added that winning was not necessarily what the tournament was all about.
"We want them to have a good time and really enjoy themselves. This is also an acknowledgement for what they are doing for cricket," Laughton added.
The demands om holiday leave caused by a five day tournament ruled out Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Luxembourg, while Spain opted to concentrate on next year's ECC Trophy. Russia is another potential invitee for the future.
Articles from Austrian Cricket Association, the Finnish Cricket Association, the Zagreb Cricket Club (Croatia) and Llubljana Cricket Club (Slovenia).
The draw:Monday:Austria vs. Slovenia; Croatia vs. Finland; Norway byeTuesday:Austria vs. Norway; Finland vs. Slovenia; Croatia byeWednesday: Austria vs. Finland; Croatia vs. Norway; Slovenia byeThursday:Austria vs. Croatia; Norway vs. Slovenia; Finland byeFriday:Finland vs. Norway; Croatia vs. Slovenia; Austria bye