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|Intercontinental Cup offers more exposure to minnows|
Thursday, March 25 2004 03:43 Hrs (IST)
The aim of global governing body the International Cricket Council (ICC) is to help give countries at Associate level the chance to play a longer version of the game.
At present they are generally restricted to One-day, Limited Overs matches. And while that type of cricket is the one used at the World Cup and in other international matches, Test match cricket over five day is widely considered to be the ultimate form of the sport.
While only Kenya of the nations taking part in the Intercontinental Cup are anywhere near Test status, it is hoped that by playing more first-class matches they will be in a stronger position to make the transition than Bangladesh were when they became Test cricket's newest entrant in 2001.
Bangladesh, the 10th Test nation, have yet to win a Test match in 28 attempts, drawing just two and losing the other 26.
A lack of a first-class structure was widely blamed for Bangladesh's failure to adapt to Test cricket and cricket chiefs are determined to do what they can to avoid a repeat performance even though these Intercontinental matches will be of three days duration maximum.
The ICC's leading three Associate countries from four regions, Africa, Americas, Asia and Europe, will play regional three-day matches with the top team from each region progressing to the semi-finals and final to be held in the UAE in November 2004.
The opening match will be the Asian qualifier between the UAE and Nepal in Sharjah from March 25-27.
ICC high performance manager Bob Woolmer said the Intercontinental Cup was a vital part of the competing nations development programme.
"Following the performances of the Associate Members at the 2003 World Cup it was patently clear that these countries needed an international programme at a more advanced level," said former South Africa coach Woolmer.
"The multi-day game is the clear pathway to improving the playing level of these countries.
"Batsmen will learn to build an innings, spend more time at the crease and thereby increase their confidence and ability. Bowlers too will get fitter and more accurate and learn more skills."
Uganda, Kenya and Namibia will contest the Africa qualifiers. Kenya made it through to the World Cup semi-finals in South Africa last year, while Namibia came close to pulling off an upset win against England.
Elsewhere Bermuda will take on Canada and USA in the Americas; Malaysia, Nepal and UAE will face off in Asia and in Europe, the Netherlands will meet Ireland and Scotland.
In total the ICC now has 89 member countries. There are 10 Full, 27 Associate and 52 Affiliate members.