There are many cricket fans and supporters, both from the Caribbean and the rest of the world, who would have been surprised to learn of the participation of a team from the Americas [Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Islands, Bahamas] in the forthcoming International Under-15 Cricket Championships, scheduled for April 16- May 4
In a competition that is virtually regarded as the U-15 World Cup, the cricketing world would have expected teams from only the top cricket nations to be the participants. Indeed, in the last event of this kind, staged in England some eight years ago, the teams included England, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Netherlands, South Africa and the West Indies, who defeated Pakistan by two wickets in a thrilling final at Lord’s.
Four years earlier in 1996, in the inaugural event held in England, all the Test-playing nations of the time, except New Zealand - Australia, England, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe - competed in the Championships. Canada and the Netherlands took the numbers up to ten countries. In 2000, the number of teams had dropped to eight, as both Australia and New Zealand were unable to participate.
The ICC has since seen the need to develop cricket programmes in other areas in the world, resulting in the appearance of a team from the Americas at this upcoming U15 Tournament. The little-known truth is that the cricketing tradition in both Canada and Bermuda goes back as far as the 1930s, with keen competition between the two countries since 1958. In more recent times Canada and Bermuda have continued their rivalry in the Americas Region I Cup and the Americas Cricket Championship in which the top three finishers get direct entry into the ICC Trophy competition.
At the U-15 level Bermuda has established an excellent tradition and has won the ICC Americas Regional U15 Championship, involving Canada, the U.S.A., Cayman Islands, Bermuda and Bahamas, in both 2002 and 2004. Involvement of the Americas’ Region teams in WICB TCL U-19 competitions has provided players with valuable experience.
In 2005 the ICC introduced the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifying Series, Division 2 with eight nations competing [Cayman Islands, Fiji, Italy, Kuwait, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Qatar and Zambia] and the winner clinching a place in the ICC Trophy competition. There has also been a resurgence in junior cricket in the USA with cricket academies, schools competitions and leagues springing up in California, New Jersey and New York. This has resulted in a USA team participating in the ICC U-15 Americas Tournament in 2006.
So what are the prospects for the Americas team in the International U-15 Cricket Championships? Well they face Kenya in the first round of the knock-out matches and an unlikely victory would pit them against the home team in the semi-finals. Could the Americas team prove to be giant killers? Only time will tell.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa