Those who follow the English Premier League will often have a second team (probably the local, lower-division side whose need for their support is far greater). Football, carried off around the world by Victorian evangelists, has been open to sharing. While the club game has become more attention-seeking, football's World Cup is still one of the biggest global sporting events; it currently features 32 teams, though talk of further expansion crops up periodically.

In cricket, your second team is likely to be an Associate nation. The ICC, which began life as the Imperial Cricket Conference, has not grown much beyond the horizons of the British Empire over the course of a century, seemingly fearful of dilution. Last year, when the governing body was restructured, it was clear it still views itself very much as a members' club. There are only ten Full Members, with power concentrated among the three strongest: India, England and Australia. Pick your underdog.

Yet at the same time as cricket has apparently decided to sit idly on its pile of TV rights money, the Associates have started rattling the ICC's gilded cage. And while the likes of Ireland and Afghanistan, in particular, have become increasingly competitive, the old-world order has chosen to ration their opportunities. The 2019 World Cup will be a more exclusive, ten-team event, with the outside prospect of temporary Test status being dangled like a compensatory turnip (well, you can hardly call it a carrot).

All this, as Tim Wigmore, one of the authors of Second XI, and a regular contributor to these pages, has pointed out, is rather at odds with the ICC's stated aim of making cricket a "bigger, better, global game". With the Associates again making headlines at the current tournament and a petition against cutting the numbers gaining thousands of signatories, it seems people are increasingly prepared to go in to bat for their second team.

Set against the ten Test nations who comprise international cricket's top tier, Wigmore and Peter Miller have pulled together ten portraits from those immediately below. That is roughly the same number of players you can expect to turn up for a 2nd XI fixture and, appropriately, there are a few ringers involved, including a real power hitter in Gideon Haigh. These are dispatches from cricket's outposts, away from the million-dollar franchise leagues, the 90,000-seater stadiums, the global ICC jamborees.

We are taken beyond the boundary ropes to see how the game has developed a fanatical following in Nepal, given a tour through the fraught political history of cricket in Ireland, and introduced to the intrigues and disputes that bedevil its administration in the US - cricket's equivalent of the Oak Island mystery. Wigmore updates the relatively well-known story of Afghanistan's rise with details of how the Afghanistan Cricket Board is bringing in sponsorship money that makes it less reliant on the ICC, and reports on youth-development structures and the women's game. Miller tracks down Sultan Zarawani - who wore a sun hat to face Allan Donald in 1996 and subsequently wore a Donald bouncer as well - though sadly he doesn't have much to say.

As the book expounds, cricket is surviving, in some cases thriving, in these neglected corners of the world. Mohammad Nabi, Afghanistan's captain and a man who was brought up in a refugee camp, says of the game in his country: "It brings peace to every tribe." Yet among the dominant tribes at the ICC, the Associates seem to be a source of irritation, more trouble than their net worth.

It is quite something to make FIFA look like a progressive beacon by comparison, but another Commonwealth sport could come up the blind side, as Sahil Dutta observes in an excellent chapter on China. While the ICC steadfastly resists the idea of Olympic status, rugby sevens is set to feature at the 2016 Games and its Chinese ambitions have already made a great leap forward. The same could happen to cricket, with a little vision, says one of its missionaries in the east: "The moment you flick that switch and grant cricket Olympic status, it's on. If it doesn't happen, cricket will never develop in China. If it does, cricket will definitely take off. It's as straightforward as that."

There is charm, too, in the human stories - a personal favourite was Scotland wicketkeeper Colin Smith driving home through the night after a game in order to fulfil his duties as a postman. It's a minor criticism, but there might have been room for more. What of Canada, who featured at three successive World Cups between 2003 and 2011? Or Hong Kong, who secured a rousing victory over Bangladesh at the 2014 World T20?

The only real disappointment is that the essay on Papua New Guinea, provided by the ever-excellent Haigh, has not been updated since it was first published almost two years ago. Last year, Papua New Guinea played their first-ever one-day internationals - winning both - and in January, Lega Siaka, who scored his country's maiden hundred in the series with Hong Kong, featured in the Australian Prime Minister's XI against England. It feels like there is more to say here.

One of the refrains of the last few weeks has been Associate disappointment with the ICC's direction of travel, accompanied by regular defiance on the field of play, and Second XI is a similar rallying cry. Now is the time to show some solidarity. As Haigh writes in his foreword, "there's seldom reason in cricket not to be hopeful".

Second XI: Cricket in its Outposts
By Tim Wigmore and Peter Miller
Pitch Publishing
224 pages
£12.99

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick