The 2015 ICC World Cricket League Division Six is set to commence in England from September 7. The week-long 50-over tournament will feature eight Associate and Affiliate nations, with the top two teams earning entry into the six-team 2016 Division Five tournament.
The tournament will have a group stage followed by crossover matches and playoffs. Group A consists of Guernsey (ranked 33rd), Botswana (36th), Suriname (37th) and Fiji (39th) while Cayman Islands (34th), Vanuatu (35th), Saudi Arabia (38th) and Norway (40th). The 20 matches will be played at 11 grounds across Essex and Hertfordshire.
Guernsey and Cayman Islands were both relegated from the 2014 WCL Division Five tournament held in Malaysia while Vanautu have remained in the Division Six on account of finishing third in the 2013 edition. The remaining five teams have all qualified through regional competitions.
With a day to go for the tournament, fans of Associate and Affiliate cricket will be looking forward to what promises to be an unpredictable and tightly-contested week of cricket. We look at eight players – one from each of the participating nations – who will be worth keeping an eye on:
Russel Withey (Botswana)
23-year-old Withey is a promising fast bowler who was born in Johannesburg. He first proved his worth in the 2013 WCL Division Seven held in Botswana, where he finished as the joint-highest wicket-taker with 17 scalps at 13.64.
This included a haul of 4/24 against Ghana in his very first outing for the national team. He then went on to take 3/31 in his side’s win over Fiji in the third-place playoff. For his performance he was named as the emerging player of the tournament.
Earlier this year, he impressed in the Africa T20 Division One in Benoni, with the highlight being a spell of 3/9 against a much stronger Ugandan team. As Botswana look to climb up the ladder, a lot will be expected from Withey.
Kervin Ebanks (Cayman Islands)
The Cayman Islands will have plenty to play for after having been relegated from Division Five last year. As they look to redeem themselves, the spotlight will be on 26-year-old pace bowler Kervin Ebanks on whom will be the onus of guiding the bowling attack.
Ebanks starred in his team’s only win in the 2014 Division Five with an excellent return of 5/19 as Guernsey were beaten by 33 runs while chasing a lowly 140. He is a handy batsman too and it is not uncommon to see him bat at number seven.
Slow left-armer Max Ellis will be one of the most vital players for relegated Guernsey (source – guernseypress.com)
Josefa Rika (Fiji)
Captain Rika has been a household name in Fijian cricket for quite some time now. The 27-year-old southpaw opener has been involved in his country’s cricketing development ever since he featured in the under-19 team in 2001, aged just 13.
In 2007, he smashed a stunning 257 off 145 balls to help Fiji pulverise Japan by 387 runs in an Under-19 World Cup qualifying match. Over the years, he has become the rock of the batting line-up.
Rika had announced his retirement in 2013 in order to focus on coaching roles, but to his team’s good fortune, he reconsidered the decision last year and is now leading his talented side to England. Needless to say, his captaincy and batting will be pivotal to Fiji’s success.
Max Ellis (Guernsey)
The 2014 Division Five tournament was a forgettable experience for Guernsey as they managed only one win in six games to finish fifth and subsequently got demoted. One of the positives for them was Max Ellis.
The 23-year-old orthodox slow left-armer collected 11 wickets at an average of 17.09 to finish as Guernsey’s best bowler. His best figures were an outstanding 10-3-12-4 in defeat against the Cayman Islands. He also took a crucial 3-44 in the fifth-place playoff against the same opposition.
That he has been in good form of late augurs well for Guernsey, who will be desperate to finish in the top two. In May 2015, he took six wickets in three matches in the European T20 Division One, including a tidy 3/20 against traditional rivals Jersey.
Safir Hayat (Norway)
Pakistan-born all-rounder Hayat will be one of the key players for the lowest ranked team in the competition. A right-arm medium pace bowler, Hayat was the joint fourth-highest wicket-taker in the European T20 Division One four months back.
Though his economy rate was on the higher side, he was the strike bowler for his side who won only one out of five matches in the tournament. His best effort was 3/30 against Guernsey. If Norway are to impress in England, Hayat will have a major role to play.
19-year-old all-rounder Nalin Nipiko will hope to inspire Vanuatu in the WCL Division Six in England (source – vanuatucricket.wix.com)
Shoaib Ali (Saudi Arabia)
Off-spinner Ali, who is also the captain of his team, will be one of the most talented bowlers on display in the tournament. He was the leading wicket taker in the ACC T20 Cup in the UAE earlier this year, taking 15 wickets at 9.46.
In his team’s defeat against Kuwait, he took six wickets despite going for 55 runs and followed it up with a match-winning 5/19 against higher-ranked Malaysia the next day. His efforts helped Saudi Arabia finish a creditable third out of six teams.
Sauid Drepaul (Suriname)
Born in Guyana, 30-year-old Drepaul is an all-rounder who bowls slow left-arm orthodox. He usually bats in the middle-order and his presence provides Suriname with a good balance in the playing eleven.
In the 2013 Americas T20 Division One, he was the joint-highest wicket taker (13) and the fifth-highest run getter (206) as Suriname finished third out of five teams. Though he was pretty ordinary in the 2015 edition, one can expect him to give his best in England.
Nalin Nipiko (Vanuatu)
Nalin Nipiko is an exciting 19-year-old all-rounder with a penchant for big hitting and who also bowls effective medium pace. He was the third-highest run getter with a tally of 219 in the 2015 Pacific Games T20, which Vanautu won without losing a single game.
This included a quickfire 40 off 19 balls against Papua New Guinea and a blitzing 105 off 42 balls against New Caledonia, both times while batting at number three. He also starred in the final against Papua New Guinea, scoring 49 in a tricky chase of 98.
In 2013, he impressed in the WCL Division Six at the age of 17, finishing with 11 victims. Earlier that year, he topped the wickets chart in the East-Asia Pacific u19 Championship, taking 17 wickets at just 4.70. If he gets going, Vanuatu will be a force to reckon with.