The crucial 2018 ICC World Cricket League Division Three is underway in Oman. The eleven-day long 50-over tournament will feature six Associate nations, with the top two teams earning promotion to the Division Two tournament scheduled to be played in Namibia in April 2019, and getting a step closer towards a shot at attaining ODI status and potential qualification for the 2023 World Cup.
The tournament will have a round-robin format, with each team playing every other once. The teams in action are Oman (fifth in 2018 Division Two), Kenya (sixth in 2017 Division Two), Singapore (third in 2017 Division Three), the United States of America (fourth in 2017 Division Three), Uganda (first in 2018 Division Four) and Denmark (second in 2018 Division Four).
Fifteen matches will be played during the course of the tournament, at the Al Emarat Cricket Stadium in the capital city of Muscat. As we look forward to what promises to be an exciting and unpredictable battle of highly contextual one-day cricket, here is a look at six players – one from each of the participating nations – who will be worth keeping an eye on in the tournament.
Bilal Khan (Oman)
Though Oman were relegated from Division Two in February (they finished fifth in the six-team tournament in Namibia), their left-arm pacer Bilal Khan proved his worth by taking 17 wickets at 10.76, the joint highest. His 5/40 in the fifth-place playoff against Kenya helped Oman avoid the wooden spoon. One of the most consistent pacemen in the Associate world, Bilal will be key to the hosts’ fortunes.
Dhiren Gondaria (Kenya)
Having endured a winless Division Two campaign, Kenya will need something special to stem their steady decline. In a troubled year headlined by administrative disorder, opener Dhiren Gondaria has been one of the positives. He scored two fifties in Namibia, and his impressive strike rate is a welcome boost to the Kenyan batting. If Kenya are to begin a resurgence, Gondaria will have a major role to play.
Bilal Khan appeals during Oman’s Desert T20 game against Hong Kong in 2016-17. His team will expect him to maintain his recent form on home soil (source – Getty Images)
Anish Paraam (Singapore)
Singapore will aim to punch above their weight – they have never gone beyond Division Three. Central to their chances will be the performance of Anish Paraam, who accumulated 190 runs at 47.50 in the Division Three tournament in Uganda last year. He was also the highest run-getter in the Asia Cup Qualifier in September, with a tally of 218 at 43.60, which again underlined his immense value to the side.
Ali Khan (United States of America)
Pakistan-born Ali Khan, who has enjoyed a productive year so far, is one of the more exciting talents on the Associate circuit at present. The 27-year-old fast bowler impressed audiences with his T20 exploits in the Global T20 Canada and the Caribbean Premier League, in which he was the joint third-highest wicket-taker. There is no reason why he cannot continue in the same vein in the 50-over format.
Mohammad Irfan Afridi (Uganda)
Uganda bounced back from the disappointment of relegation from Division Three to win the Division Four title in Malaysia this year. One of the stars of that success was the spin-bowling all-rounder Mohammad Irfan Afridi, who took a tournament-best 15 wickets at 9.60 apiece, besides playing the role of aggressor in the middle order. Afridi’s game-changing ability gives Uganda a chance of further progress.
Frederik Klokker (Denmark)
A second-place finish in Division Four meant that Denmark made it to Division Three for the first time since 2011. Veteran wicketkeeper-batsman Frederik Klokker was at the forefront, top-scoring for his team with 221 runs at 55.25. The southpaw has been a lynchpin of the Danish line-up for quite some time now, and as Denmark hope to climb up the ladder, his contribution will become all the more significant.