At least one and perhaps two more European countries will have the opportunity to take part in global competition as a result of the ICC’s decision to expand the World Cricket League to five divisions.
The leading five European nations have already won places in the first three divisions: World Cup qualifiers Ireland, The Netherlands and Scotland in Division 1 (which will take place in Kenya in January-February next year), Denmark in Division 2 (planned for Namibia in November 2007), and Italy in Division 3 (planned to take place in the USA in summer 2007).
But with an eight-team Division 5 tournament now planned for the first half of 2008, five places in which are assigned to the next ranked country in each region, Norway are guaranteed a slot, along with Afghanistan, Argentina, Botswana and the Cook Islands.
The three remaining places will be allocated by the ICC Development Committee when it meets in December, and those allocations will be based on the rankings of the next group of countries. This means that Jersey, runners-up to Norway in this year’s European Second Division tournament, and possibly even Germany, who finished third, will be competing with The Bahamas, Panama, Nepal, Singapore, Mozambique, Zambia and Japan for those last three positions.
Determining which three have the strongest claim will not be a straightforward task, since few of the countries involved have ever taken part in cross-regional competition. Singapore, Nepal and Germany all participated in the 2001 ICC Trophy, but it is questionable how much value can be attached to their performances there in establishing rankings for a tournament in 2008.
Given the size and comparative strength of the European region, however (with 27 members it is by far the largest of ICC’s five regions, and it has a well-established four-division tournament structure of its own), there must be a reasonable chance that Jersey will join Norway on the bottom rung of this ambitious global competition, and even an outside possibility that Germany might get the nod as well.
Even the Division 5 countries have a theoretical chance of qualifying for the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup: the top two in that competition will progress to Division 4, to be held later in 2008. The remaining four participants in that tournament will be the bottom four from the 2007 Division 3 competition, and the top two from Division 4 will then move on to the 2009 version of Division 3.
With the sides finishing first and second in Division 3 qualifying for the ICC World Cup Qualifier (former ICC Trophy) – the qualifying tournament for the 2011 World Cup – it is imaginable that a country could progress from the lower reaches of the World Cricket League to the High Performance Programme and the premier global one-day competition in the space of eighteen magical months.
And even if they fall short of that target, the planned expansion of the High Performance Programme to include a second tier of non-Test countries will be a powerful incentive in itself.
The full list of participants in the World Cricket League is as follows:Division 1: Bermuda; Canada; Ireland; Kenya; The Netherlands; Scotland Division 2: Denmark; Namibia; Oman; UAE; + top two from Division 3 Division 3: Cayman Islands; Fiji; Hong Kong; Italy; Papua New Guinea; Tanzania; Uganda; USA Division 5: Afghanistan; Argentina; Botswana; Cook Islands; Norway; + next three ranked countries.