Last chance for minnows to flex their arms

Published: Saturday, February 19, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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London:Eight teams hope to take a step closer to the 2007 World Cup finals when they take part in the ICC World Cup Qualifying Series in Malaysia starting from Monday.

Only one team out of the Cayman Islands, Fiji, Italy, Kuwait, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Qatar and Zambia will make it through to the ICC Trophy later this year from which the final qualifiers for the 2007 showpiece in the Caribbean will be decided.

Cayman Islands captain Ryan Bovell has set his sights on winning the event though he admits that the devastating impact of Hurricane Ivan severely hindered his side's preparations.

"Our target is to win the tournament by dominating all opponents in every facet of the game," said Bovell whose squad includes two policemen and three prison officers.

"My country was devastated by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004. The majority of my team mates lost everything and our cricket fields and practice areas were seriously damaged but we have the ability to fight when everything seems lost."

Cayman Islands begin their campaign against Fiji whose captain Waisake Tukana believes the international experience will be invaluable to his team's development.

"The ICC WCQS Division 2 tournament is very important for the Fiji team as it gives us the opportunity to pit our skills against teams of comparable strength and experience," said Tukana.

"Playing other international teams has a big impact on the skills of our players, as most of our players are not accustomed to playing at this level of cricket. It is playing at tournaments like this which brings out the best of our players."

Italy will be captained by the Australian-born Joe Scuderi who has earned first class honours with South Australia and Lancashire.

The experienced all-rounder said good performances will be as important as positive results for his team.

"We want to be successful in this tournament and that doesn't mean winning all our games. It means playing well and being competitive," said Scuderi.

"It gives the players an insight to the strengths and perhaps weaknesses of other players and an opportunity to compare themselves with them on a skill and knowledge level."

The winner of the Malaysia tournament will be one of 12 teams to contest the ICC Trophy in Ireland (July 1-13) from which five teams will qualify for the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.

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