Here we go again. After a gap of 7 months, the familiar sight of one week of gruelling and cut-throat nature of Associate cricket is back with Division four of ICC World Cricket League in Malaysia. In one of the most diverse geographic presence of countries (6 countries from 5 continents) in an WCL event in recent times, host’s Malaysia will go up against Bermuda, Denmark, Uganda, Jersey and Vanuatu in one week of survival of the strongest as they vie for top 2 spots, that will take them into Division three and a step closer to their 2023 World Cup dreams.

Not that any of the team’s are in desperate need of extra motivation that there already is, but the 18 matches across three venues from Apr 29th – May 05th will decide the fate of where cricket is heading in their countries. With ICC giving T20I status to all Associates, one does feel that the zeal of playing 50-overs cricket will take a backseat if the results are not according to the plans of some of the countries in the tournament.

Mind-boggling as it is, but it’s hard to accept the fact that when a week decides the future (good, bad or ugly) for the countries in WCL competitions, they don’t even get official warm-up matches (Atleast give them just one game, they’ll welcome it with both arms) before heading straight to the hot cauldron. It has been seen in various WCL tournaments that few teams need that much more time to adjust to the conditions of the host country and by the time they come to terms with it, the train had left the station and there’s no way to catch up. And then comes the ugly truth for the bottom two teams, who’ll slip further in the ranks and ponder about the future of 50-overs cricket when they get back home.

With such high stakes at play, it becomes even more important to start the tournament with wins, no matter how they come. They’ll rather be more content with wins playing ugly cricket and then lose playing good cricket. And the scrutiny with which the World analyses them through print and social media is something they can’t even hide from.

With all these things in mind, all six nations will take the field on 29th Apr 2018 with only one mindset. Get a win, no matter how it comes. Malaysia, who have been playing the maximum amount of cricket amongst their five opponents, will have the added pressure of home advantage to perform and deliver to showcase that they are not just good enough to host International games but also feature in them. Their national players have played against Singapore, Sri Lanka Army XI and Hong Kong A in the past couple of months and will be banking on players like Ahmad Faiz, Virandeep Singh, Syed Aziz Syed Mubarak and Anwar Arudin to deliver for them in crucial matches in the week to come.

Malaysia Squad for ICC WCL Division 4:

Anwar Arudin (captain), Ahmad Faiz, Muhamad Syahadat Ramli, Mohd Shafiq, Mohd Suharril Fetri, Mohammad Shukri, Muhammad Wafiq Irfan, Pavandeep Singh, Dhivendran Mogan, Syed Aziz Syed Mubarak, Virandeep Singh, Anwar A.Rahman, Che Wan Razlan & Suhan Kumar

Uganda are still feeling dejected with the fact that they are in Division four and they’ll rather be in Division three and fight for the qualification spot. Still, they have played plenty of games in the lead-up to this tournament against the likes of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, but with no offence to both those countries, the standard of competitiveness will be lot higher in Division four and how they cope with it, will show how determined they are to get back to Division three. A warm-up win against Malaysia A squad on 27th Apr will definitely be a boost for their confidence and they’ll be hoping to continue in the same manner when the proper tournament begins.

Uganda Squad for ICC WCL Division 4:

Roger Mukasa (Captain)Brian Masaba, Hamu Kayondo, Simon Ssesazi, Deus Muhumuza, Riazat Shah, Irfan Afridi, Henry Ssenyondo, Frank Nsubuga, Kenneth Waiswa, Fred Achelam, Charles Waiswa, Bilal Hassan & Steven Wabwose

Surprisingly, no one talks much about the Danes. A new captain in Hamid Shah, who admitted the shortcomings of their batsmen in playing in slow conditions and spinners highlighted the fact that there is so much lack of coaching facilities and game-time for players, that it is almost not shocking to see the talent drain in Denmark. But they have addressed that this time and had six members go through extensive training in tackling spinner and slow bowlers in National Cricket Academy in Lahore, Pakistan on a two week trip and if they manage to claim a spot from Division four, all credit will go the coaches in NCA and the arrangements made by Dansk Cricket and PCB to bring about thees results.

Denmark Squad for ICC WCL Division 4:

Hamid Shah (Captain), Frederik Klokker, Saif Ahmad, Anique Uddin, Bashir Shah, Basit Raja, Zameer Khan, Anders Bulow, Jonas Henriksen, Mads Henriksen, Nicolaj Jorgensen, Rizwan Mahmood, Monty Singh & Shangeev Thanikaithasan

Bermuda come into the tournament on the back of some good game-time in the middle for their players as they recently took part in ICC Americas sub-regional qualifiers for WorldT20 and also few 50-overs matches against Cayman Islands and Argentina after that to prepare for Division four. A six-day stop in UAE en-route to Malaysia saw them get few more games against UAE Blues (Comprising of upcoming talent and few Internationals) under their belt and they will be looking forward to continue where they have left off in UAE and proceed towards their goal of qualifying for Division three. Although, they’ll be disappointed by not having the services of Delray Rawlins, the onus will be on the likes of Janeiro Tucker, Kamau Leverock and the returning Stephen Outerbridge to deliver for them. Them being the only team in the competition to have played ICC World Cup, they would love to get back into the higher ranks amongst the Associates.

Bermuda Squad for ICC WCL Division 4:

Terryn Fray (Captain), Dion Stovell, Janeiro Tucker, Steven Bremar, Okera Bascome, Charles Trott, Stephen Outerbridge, Kwasi James, Kamau Leverock, Jacobi Robinson, Macai Simmons, Cejay Outerbridge, Chare Smith & Tre Manders

Jersey and Vanuatu rose from the ranks from Division five seven months ago but hardly got enough game-time after that. Jersey, however, got to play against 2nd XI of English County club, Kent and came flying to Singapore en-route to Malaysia and played warm-up matches to acclimatize with conditions and will be confident of showing good performances out on the park. Vanuatu, similarly came a week back and played warm-up matches to get the players up and running for the challenges ahead.

Jersey Squad for ICC WCL Division 4:

Charles Perchard (Captain)Corey Bisson, Dominic Blampied, Corne Bodenstein, Harrison Carlyon, Jake Dunford, Nick Ferraby, Peter Gough, Anthony Hawkins-Kay, Jonty Jenner, Elliot Miles, Will Robertson, Benjamin Stevens & Nathaniel Watkins

Jersey were clearly the best side in Division five while Vanuatu surprised a much more fancied Italy and others to book their ticket to Malaysia. Players like Patrick Matautaava and Andrew Mansale have been playing grade-level cricket in Australia and few players were part of ICC East Asia-Pacific Men’s squad, which took part in 2018 Australian Country Championships in Jan 2018.

Vanuatu Squad for ICC World Cricket League Division 4:

Andrew Mansale (Captain), Jonathon Dunn, Callum Blake, Jelany Chilia, Shane Deitz, Wolford Kalworai, Trevor Langa, Patrick Matautaava, Williamsing Nalisa, Nalin Nipiko, Simpson Obed, Joshua Rasu, Ronald Tari, Wesley Viraliliu and Apollinaire Stephen

Malaysian grounds have been seeing continuous cricket in the past 2-3 months and the pitches are generally on the slower side. And the pressure of World Cricket League often brings out low scoring games and it adds that much more tension and excitement to the matches. If domestic games and International friendlies are anything to look at, then scores between 200-250 will be something every team would look to achieve batting first. Bowlers have always had success in Malaysian conditions and Division four will be no different to that stat.

ICC World Cricket League Division 4 Schedule (All timings local – 10:15 am):

29 Apr 2018: Uganda v Malaysia ; Denmark v Bermuda ; Jersey v Vanuatu
30 Apr 2018: Malaysia v Vanuatu ; Denmark v Jersey ; Uganda v Bermuda
02 May 2018: Bermuda v Jersey ; Uganda v Vanuatu ; Malaysia v Denmark
03 May 2018: Uganda v Denmark ; Malaysia v Jersey ; Bermuda v Vanuatu
05 May 2018: Denmark v Vanuatu ; Malaysia v Bermuda ; Uganda v Jersey
06 May 2018: 4th/5th play-off ; 3rd/4th play-off ; Final
 
With no certainties to the structure of World Cricket League and no formal announcements made from ICC (Most likely will be discussed and notified after their Annual General Meeting in Jun 2018), the pressure is more than ever for the countries to compete for the top 2 spots and keep alive their 2023 World Cup dreams and not keep venturing in the uncertain darkness that might loom over WCL tournaments very shortly from now.

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