Inactive national sides "on notice"
Amendments to the ICC membership requirements made at last years ICC annual conference mean that all ICC members must now field national sides in official ICC regional events.
However, several ICC members have either never played a national side or have not played in the recent past.
If these nations haven't rectified this by the 2010 ICC annual conference, they will be put "on notice", and if they still haven't complied by the 2011 annual conference, then their membership could be revoked.
Several European nations will rectify this later this year. Bulgaria, Estonia and Turkey will play in their first official event, whilst Austria and Sweden will both be returning after a more than five year absence.
But what of countries from other regions? Let's take a look.
Cameroon were set to play in last years African Division Three tournament, but pulled out at a late stage. They are not taking part in the now annual African WCL cycle this year, so next year will be their next chance to play.
Costa Rica has played in two Central American Championship tournaments in recent years, but this tournament does not count, as it is not an official regional event played according to ICC playing conditions and eligibility requirements. There next opportunity will come in the 2010 Americas Championship cycle, when they could play in Division Three, or Division Four if the event is expanded.
Cuba were set to play in the 2008 Stanford 20/20 before the US government prevented Allen Stanford from dealing with them. With Stanford now out of the picture, the WICB could conceivably invite them to a replacement Twenty20 tournament, though any WICB tournament is unlikely to be as wide in scope as the Standford event. In any case, the tournament is a domestic one, and not an ICC event, so it wouldn't have counted. As with Costa Rica, Cuba's next opportunity will come in the 2010 Americas Championship cycle. One problem could be Cuba's official designation of cricket as a leisure pursuit and not a sport. The distinction is a significant one as sports get help with equipment and travel costs whilst leisure pursuits don't.
Another Americas region country, the Falklands have sent youth teams to Chile, and the national side toured the UK in 2007, but are yet to play in an official ICC event, with their next chance being the 2010 Americas Championship cycle. Whilst the Falklands would seem to have little problem raising a national side, there is one potential obstacle to overcome. Argentina is becoming a favoured host for Americas events, even when Argentina aren't playing, and some high level negotiations could be needed to allow a Falklands side to play in a country that invaded them less than 30 years ago.
Yet another Americas side, Mexico have, like Costa Rica, played in the Central American Championship, but as already mentioned, this doesn't count for the purposes of the ICC regulations. There next chance to play will again be the 2010 Americas Championship cycle.
A country in the ICC's East Asia Pacific region, the Philippines have never played an international. There is a domestic league, though largely expatriate based, and they host an annual sixes tournament. Their next opportunity to play would have been this years EAP Trophy, though they are not to take part, and the tournament is unlikely to be played again until late 2011. Unless an event for the lower EAP nations can be created for 2010, it seems likely that the Philippines could well lose their membership.
South Korea did take part in a regional event along with Japan and Indonesia back in 2002, but this was in the eights format that seems to be almost exclusive to the EAP region, so does not count for the ICC's regulations. As with the Philippines, they are not taking part in this years EAP Trophy, so they could also lose their membership in the not too distant future. It seems strange that they haven't played international cricket recently, as there is a domestic league in the country with a significant number of ethnic Koreans playing - indeed, the side that played in 2002 contained no expatriates.
St Helena are in the ICC's African region, and have never taken part in a regional event. They are not down to play in this years African Division Three tournament, so their first chance will be next year, as with Cameroon.
In conclusion, it seems unlikely that in future ICC members will be able to get away with being absent from international cricket, and we will not see a six year China-style wait for a country to make their debut. The cynical amongst us, including myself, will of course note that this regulation wasn't actually introduced until it became clear that China were ready to start playing internationals!
One would hope that the ICC will help those nations that can field a national side that meets the eligibility rules to play in their regional events so that they do not lose their membership.