Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo
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The World Cricket League was devised by the ICC to provide regular one-day international cricket to Associate and Affiliate countries as well as to provide a qualification route into the ICC World Cup Qualifier (formerly ICC Trophy) and form there to World Cup.
Despite some scepticism, it has been a great success, allowing countries to work their way to the top of the pile on merit. This was best highlighted by the rapid ascendency of Afghanistan from Division Five to Division One in under two years.
The competition is divided into nine divisions (it was originally five) with promotion and relegation between them. Each division takes places in one venue over a week in a round-robin league with play-off places resulting from there culminating in a final between the top two and ranking finals for the remaining teams.
The ICC says that competition is about more than just the top Associate teams. "It is a five-division structure designed to afford teams of various standards the opportunity to play regular one-day cricket against similarly ranked opponents regardless of where in the world they are located. It will also ensure that the qualifying pathway for the World Cup is open to the majority of the 91 ICC Associate and Affiliate members."
The first event - the WCL Division 1 competition involving the top six Associates - took place in Nairobi in January/February 2007 and was won by hosts Kenya with Scotland the runners-up. The two sides qualified for the ICC World Twenty in South Africa later in the year.
The WCL was initially divided into five global groups (see below) with the first staging of each division being used to establish grouping thereafter. From 2009 onwards each division will have two promotion and relegations with the exception of the top division.
All sides in Division 1 plus the top four in Division Two and the top two in Division Three 2009 will go through to the ICC World Cup Qualifier (formerly the ICC Trophy) which will be held in the UAE in April 2009. That will in turn produce rankings for each of the top divisions from 2009 onwards.
Division One Bermuda, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, Netherlands, Scotland. Initial tournament Nairobi January-February 2007.
Division Two Denmark, Namibia, Oman, UAE plus the winners of initial Division Three competition (Argentina, Uganda). Initial competition Windhok November 2007.
Division Three Argentina, Cayman Islands, Fiji, Hong Kong, Italy, PNG, Tanzania, Uganda. Initial tournament Darwin May-June 2007. A second tournament with the bottom two from Division Two, the top two from Division Four and the third and fourth sides from Darwin (PNG and Cayman Islands) was held in January 2009.
Division Four First and second from Division Five plus fifth to eighth from Division Three (Fiji, Hong Kong, Italy, Tanzania). Initial tournament September 2008.
Division Five Afghanistan, Bahamas, Botswana, Germany, Jersey, Mozambique, Nepal, Norway, Singapore, USA, plus two qualifiers from East Asia Pacific region. Initial tournament in Jersey May 2008.