In Focus – Six players to watch out for in the ICC WCL Division Three

  The 2017 ICC World Cricket League Division Three is set to commence in Uganda later today. The week-long 50-over tournament will feature six Associate nations, with the top two teams earning entry into the six-team 2018 Division Two tournament and getting a step closer to a shot at qualification for the 2019 World Cup. 

  The tournament will feature a round-robin stage followed by playoffs. The teams in action are hosts Uganda (5th in 2015 Division Two), Canada (6th in 2015 Division Two), Malaysia (3rd in 2014 Division Three), Singapore (4th in 2014 Division Three), United States of America (1st in 2016 Division Three) and Oman (2nd in 2016 Division Three).

  Eighteen matches will be played across three venues in Uganda. With just a few hours to go for the tournament to begin, fans of Associate cricket would undoubtedly be looking forward to what promises to be an unpredictable and keenly-contested week of one-day cricket. We look at six players – one from each of the participating nations – who will be worth keeping an eye on.

Deusdedit Muhumuza (Uganda)

  Hosts Uganda, under the aegis of their Kenyan coach Steve Tikolo, will enter the tournament riding on a rich vein of form, having remarkably subdued Kenya 4-0 in the five-match Easter Series in April. A notable performer for the Cricket Cranes, as the Ugandan side is known, in this series was 27-year-old pace-bowling all-rounder Deusdedit Muhumuza.

  Muhumuza repeatedly stifled the Kenyan batsmen with his medium pace, not to mention his valuable lower-order batting. Last September, he had fashioned his side’s two-wicket win over Kenya with a haul of 5/49. Reported for a suspect action in 2013-14, Muhumuza has since come back strong and could be a force to reckon with in familiar environs.

      Pace bowler Deusdedit Muhumuza will be looking to impress for hosts Uganda in the ICC World Cricket League Division Three (source – fairfax nz/robert charles)

Satsimranjit Dhindsa (Canada)

  India-born fast bowler Satsimranjit Dhindsa is an important cog in the Canadian bowling attack. The 26-year-old played a vital role in Canada’s Auty Cup victory last October, taking six wickets at 22.33, including 4/37 in the second game wherein Canada successfully defended 216 to win by 17 runs. Last week, Dhindsa showed his prowess on the Zimbabwean tour as well.

  He took 5/53 as Canada ran a strong Zimbabwe A outfit close, losing by only two wickets. Along with the equally promising Cecil Pervez, he forms an effective opening pair that can put batsmen to the test. Dhindsa’s abilities are not limited to the ball – he can wield the long handle as well, as he showed during a valuable knock of 32* in the opening game of the Auty Cup. 

Ahmed Faiz (Malaysia)

  Malaysian captain Ahmed Faiz is the fulcrum of his side’s middle order, and much will be expected from him in this crunch tournament. Malaysia’s opening encounter will be against Singapore, the team that bore the brunt of Faiz’s blade in the 2015-16 Stan Nagiah Cup – Faiz scored 111* in the 50-over game, and followed it with a 109* in the T20.

  Faiz tends to score heavily in the World Cricket League – in 2014, he logged 317 runs at 63.40 in the Division Five tournament, 239 at 49.33 in Division Four and another 261 at 52.20 in Division Three. The 29-year-old, who first led Malaysia at the Under-19 World Cup at home in 2008, will be raring to lead from the front once again.

Arjun Mutreja (Singapore)

  A highly talented opening batsman, 27-year-old Arjun Mutreja will be banked upon by the Singaporeans to provide a robust start at the top. Born in Rajasthan in India, Mutreja has both, the maturity to dig deep and play an anchoring innings, as well as the capacity to accelerate when required.

  A worthy example of the latter was an innings of 79 off just 45 balls against Oman in the ACC Twenty20 Cup in 2014-15, an effort that gave Singapore a significant 23-run victory. Mutreja has happy memories of the last WCL Division Three, played in 2014, in which he finished as the highest run-getter with 282. An encore would surely hold Singapore in good stead.

       Leg spinner Timil Patel is expected to play a pivotal role for the United States of America in the six-team tournament in Uganda (source – usacricketers.com/shiek mohamed) 

Timil Patel (United States of America)

  Yet another India-born player on this list, 33-year-old leg spinner Timil Patel could prove to be the United States’ trump card in Uganda, what with his experience of first-class cricket – he played for his native Gujarat in the Ranji Trophy till 2009 – and the boost received in the form of a Caribbean Premier League contract in March.

  Patel was instrumental in the United States’ victorious WCL Division Four campaign last October, snaring a joint-highest of 14 wickets at 15.50, including 5/22 against Oman in a league match and a tidy 3/38 against the same opponents in the final. He also impressed for ICC Americas in the West Indies’ Regional Super50 earlier this year, taking eight wickets at 23.88.    

Zeeshan Maqsood (Oman)

  29-year-old all-rounder Zeeshan Maqsood is an integral part of the Omani set-up, as he affords his team the dual benefit of a hard-hitting opening batsman as well as a crafty slow left-arm orthodox bowler. With Oman aiming to further build on their gains of the past two years, Maqsood will assume an important role in the tournament.

  Less than three weeks ago, Maqsood hit a rapid 73 to set up Oman’s 38-run win over the United Arab Emirates, a team with ODI status, in Al Amerat. Last year against the same opponents in Dubai, he took 4/14 in less than four overs as Oman won by 72 runs. His fielding is as much of an asset, as this jaw-dropping catch at the 2016 World Twenty20 testified.

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