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By Venu Palaparthi
USA meets Oman, Denmark, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea and Italy in Division 3 of the WCL this week. For USA, this marks a return to where it all started back in 2005.
Pic (Right): Afghanistan's incredible cricketing journey was the subject of a Hollywood movie!
A few things have changed since that time. Afghanistan has successfully traversed the WCL ladder and is now in the top division. Uganda's successful promotion to Division 2 is also worthy of praise. Its present rank - 10th among associates and 20th overall - is enough to give it the coveted high-performance status. Also notable is Ireland's progress within the top division. After losing all but one of its matches in the inaugural 2007 WCL Div 1, Ireland has made dramatic improvements and is presently ranked 10th overall. Enough to put the country ahead of Zimbabwe - which, by the way, is a full member.
As for the remaining associate nations, watching their progress has been a bit like watching the stock market., especially for the associates from the Americas region. Bermuda, with a last place finish in WCL Division 1 in 2007 and bottom quartile finish in the WCQ in 2009, has slipped from Division 1 to Division 2. For Argentina and Cayman Islands, both Division 3 countries in 2007, the slide was a dramatic one. After rising to Division 2 in 2007, Argentina now awaits its fate in Division 5 along with Cayman Islands.
For USA, the slide to Division 5 was entirely for non-cricketing reasons. But its miseries started with the 2005 ICC Trophy - the primary qualification mechanism for associates. That tournament also created a ladder called the World Cricket League. Accordingly, the six top teams were placed in WCL Division 1. Additionally, Scotland, Netherlands, Ireland, Bermuda and Canada gained ODI status. Kenya was already an ODI nation.
Sixth through ninth rank holders from the 2005 ICC Trophy - UAE, Denmark, Namibia, and Oman - were placed in Division 2 with room for two Division 3 promotees. In fact, USA looked strong for ninth place finish ahead of Oman and a Division 2 spot. After posting a solid score of 345 for 6 and reducing Oman to 211 for 7, USA was unable to dislodge the explosive Farhan Khan who scored 94 not out and put paid to USA's hopes. [USA readers will be glad to know that he is not part of the present Oman team.]
That essentially meant that USA had to settle for 10th place and its eventual Division 3 spot, where it was joined by Papua New Guinea and Uganda. Following USA's suspension just before the start of the 2007 ICC WCL Division 3 tournament., Argentina took its spot. This also paved the way for Cayman Islands' short-lived foray into Division 3. The world (and the World Cricket League) was a changed place when USA came out of the cave in 2008. Naturally, since the WCL had already been in motion, USA had to start from the bottom-most division - Division 5.
While it may appear that a precious opportunity was frittered away by USA in 2007, a closer examination of the WCL shows that it has been a game of chutes and ladders for most associates - especially those without the correct mix of ambition, organizational support and infrastructure. It is certainly hard to argue that USACA had that mix in 2007.
As one approaches the top rungs, the WCL pyramid can be an unforgiving one. USA's peers Denmark and Oman slid from Division 2; Hong Kong was relegated to Division 4 after its fifth place finish in 2007, but has since returned to Division 3 winning convincingly against all teams barring Afghanistan in 2008; Papua New Guinea has remained stuck in Division 3 from the very start; and Italy, like USA and Hong Kong, has just reclaimed its spot in Division 3 through a #2 finish in Nepal.
It may just be fortuitous timing that USA's reappearance in WCL Division 3 coincides with the availability of money to support the team's renewed ambitions. If USA focuses on processes and improves the cricketing infrastructure, we may see further upticks. If not, well, you get the picture - a chute is around the corner!
You can follow USA's progress in the Division 3 tournament by checking DreamCricket.com's ball by ball coverage. The first match against Hong Kong begins on Friday (7:45 pm ET-USA).
Denmark: Michael Pedersen (captain), Aftab Ahmed, Rizwan Mahmood, Raja Javed, Martin Pedersen, Jacob Larsen, Bashir Shah, Troels Thøgersen, Bobby Chawla, Yasir Iqbal, Frederik Klokker, Carsten Pedersen, David Borchersen, Naveed Mugfal
Hong Kong: Najeeb Amar (captain), Nadeem Ahmed, Irfan Ahmed, Waqas Barkat, Tabarak Dar, Khalid Butt, Asif Khan, Courtney Kruger; Roy Lansam, Mark Chapman, Nizakat Mohammad, Moner Muhammad, Adil Mehmood, Mohammad Aizaz Khan
Italy: Alessandro Bonora (captain), Roshendra Abewickrama, Din Alaud, Damian Crowley, Gayashan Munasinghe, Dilan Fernando, Thushara Kurukulasuriya, Damian Fernando, Andrew Northcote, Hayden Patrizi, Peter Petricola, Michael Raso, Hemantha Jayasena, Vincenzo Pennazza
Oman: Hemal Mehta (captain), Qais bin Khalid al Said, Sufyan Mehmood, Sultan Ahmed, Hemin Pratap Desai, Vaibhav Wategaonkar, Jatinder Singh, Deep Trivedi, Rajeshkumar Ranpura, Awal Khan, Syed Amir Ali, Adnan Ilyas, Zeeshan Siddiqui, Khalid Rasheed
PNG: Rarua Dikana Boge (captain), Chris Amini, Assadollah Vala, Kila Pala, Loa Nou, Pipi Raho, Mahuru Dai, Raymond Haoda Jnr, Chris Kent, Jack Vare-Kevera, Tony Ura, Kapena Arua, Hitolo Areni, Jason Kila
USA: Steve Massiah (captain), Muhammed Ghous, Lennox Cush, Usman Shuja, Rashard Marshall, Sushil Nadkarni, Ritesh Kadu, Orlando Baker, Carl Wright, Aditya Thyagarajan, Kevin Darlington, Durale Forrest, Asif Mehmood Khan, Ryan Corns