Although the 2011 World Cup is still two years away, qualification begins tomorrow for the 2015 competition with Division 7 of the World Cricket League. After Afghanistan’s heroics over the last year, the minnows of Bahrain, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Japan, Nigeria and Suriname (who don’t seem to have a website) will be hoping for some glory of their own:
- Bahrain have been playing international cricket for just five years, and in that time their most laudable achievement was victory in the 2006 ACC Middle East Cup, beating Afghanistan in the final. Their build-up for this tournament has so far involved a convincing win over the Isle of Wight.
- Gibraltar are a bit of a mystery – I haven’t been able to uncover much detail of their team. If anyone out there is an authority on cricket in the 2.25 square miles of Spain that decided in 1967 that it wanted to stay part of Britain as the locals were all fans of The Beatles, please get in touch
- Guernsey became associate members of the ICC as recently as last July, but the advantage of hosting the tournament may lift home hopes. The only cricketer from Guernsey that I’m aware of is Lee Savident, who used to play for Hampshire. Near neighbours Jersey are a couple of divisions further up, and the prospect of a Channel Islands derby may provide further motivation, if needed.
- Japan were as high as Divison 5 in the WCL last year, but have some rebuilding to do. Their experience of playing in Jersey last year should prepare them for conditions in Guernsey, and coach Richard Laidler has high hopes that Japan will rise back up the ladder by finishing in the top 2 this time around.
- Nigeria had some visa problems in the run-up to the competition, which I hope have been sorted out now. Nigeria actually played their first cricket international way back in 1904 against the Gold Coast (now Ghana), but were subsumed into the West African team for much of the last 40 years. I have to admit to a lack of knowledge of the current team, but hopefully that will change over the next few days.
- Suriname suprised some people with a strong showing in the ICC Americas Division 1 competition at the end of last year. The relative size and obscurity of their country (slightly larger than Georgia, according to the CIA) means they will be the romantics choice for neutrals to support.