When it comes to the lower reaches of world cricket, tournaments can be organised and played with very little fanfare and only the most fanatical of cricket supporters showing any interest, or even knowing that the games were on. I found myself in the latter category when browsing the web last week to find that both the East Asia-Pacific and Americaa regions of the ICC holding their regional qualifiers for the next World Cricket League Division Five.
At the start of the current cycle of the WCL in 2012 there were eight divisions. Citing financial pressures and the hope of providing more competitive regional fixtures for lower ranked teams, this has been reduced to five divisions after the 2015 World Cup. Instead, teams in the regions are now competing against each other to get through to the lowest rung on the WCL ladder. Although reducing the number of divisions seems a bad idea, as teams at this level are already starved of fixtures, I can see from a logistical point of view that it makes sense. Unfortunately the regions are very lopsided in terms of numbers, which means some tournaments are much more interesting and competitive than others.
The Americas tournament was played between just two teams, Argentina and the Cayman Islands. Between two continents only these teams outside the WCL structure could compete. I’m not sure why, as details on smaller nations is scant at the best of times. I know Suriname have had recent issues with eligibility of players, but as for the rest of South America in particular, I’ve no idea. Anyhow, in the ‘tournament’, such as it was, the Caymans won the three match series without defeat against the hosts. Argentina have fallen from the WCL in recent years and on this performance it’s a long way back. But at least they made it – whatever is going on in the region it’s a sad indictment if only two teams can put forward a side.
The East Asia-Pacific tournament was much more like it – six teams and some competitive matches. Vanuatu were the favourites, having being relegated from Dicision Five last year, so effectively they came straight back up again. Fiji were likely to be their closest challengers and so it proved, only a heavy defeat when the two faced in their final match denying them promotion. The remaining teams in order of position were Samoa, Phillipines, Indonesia and Japan. I must confess this was the first time I’d even been aware of these countries playing international cricket, so my knowledge is lacking, but great to see the strength of this region and the willingness of the teams to travel to Australia to play in the tournament.
As for when the other regional tournaments take place, I couldn’t tell you. Although the ICC are doing better with marketing the WCL, finding concrete info on these competitions is difficult. They seem to be finalised with quite short notice, and Cricinfo only covers some of the games. All credit to those who follow this level and keep the rest of us up to date on the goings on!