Captains brace themselves for a tough tournament
The ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier New Zealand 2014 (CWCQ) will see Jimmy Hansra captaining Canada, Kyle Coetzer leading Scotland and Khurram Khan at the helm for the UAE, as they all set their sights on the two remaining places at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 (CWC) available through the CWCQ.
Hansra, who recently succeeded Ashish Bagai as Canada captain after the latter announced his retirement, said about the team’s groundwork: “The preparations are coming along well. We held a camp indoors in Toronto, where under our new coach Andy Pick we conducted specific training scenarios for New Zealand conditions.”
All-rounder Hansra scored 215 runs from six matches at an average of 43 for Canada in the ICC CWC 2011, posting half-centuries against Kenya and New Zealand along the way and also picking up two wickets against Pakistan with his right-arm off-spin deliveries.
Evaluating the two groups and the teams in the fray, Hansra said: “No team is to be taken lightly.
“The recent upsets in the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier UAE 2013 suggest the skills of even the so-called minnows have improved dramatically, and that all teams are now thoroughly competitive.
“Group A and Group B are evenly poised, so we just have to focus on one game at a time and prepare the same way, regardless of whether we’re playing a Scotland or a Nepal.
“The tournament’s excellent format provides enough opportunities for teams to qualify on merit. So we’re all really looking forward to our games in New Zealand.”
Anticipating good crowds in New Zealand, Hansra, who scored 119 runs and took one wicket from nine matches in the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Championship 2011-13 (WCLC), said: “We should all see some great cricket being played there.
“I would urge the people there to come out for the love of the sport and support the growth of the game in other countries. For most members of the Canada team, this will be our first visit to that country, and we’re looking forward to showcasing some of our best cricket to the crowds there.”
Coetzer, who also featured in the last edition of the CWCQ in South Africa in 2009, said qualifying for the ICC CWC for a third time after 1999 and 2007 would do wonders for Scotland, adding: “It would be great for our fans back home, and encourage so many more people to take up the sport.
“Moreover, it would be huge for us personally, as players. It would go a long way in helping us properly say ‘thank you for everything’ to all those people who have supported us, travelled to cheer us, worked hard as administrators, and helped us in every possible way.
“Qualifying for the ICC CWC 2015 would be a tremendous way for all of us in the team to give back to the country and to gain what we all feel is due recognition.”
Assessing Group A, which also features Canada, Hong Kong and Nepal, along with Scotland and the UAE, Coetzer said: “There are three good teams there in Hong Kong, Nepal and the UAE, that we recently played against at the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier 2013 and that qualified for the ICC World Twenty20 2014 while we didn’t, so recent form suggests it will be tough for us early on.
“Even after the group stage, the tournament format is such that only the top two teams - the finalists after the Super Six stage - will qualify for ICC CWC 2015, so it’s a tough event, and you need to win every single game.”
Scotland has a fairly settled line-up, with each member of its squad except Michael Leask having featured in the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Championship 2011-13. Coetzer, who finished as the second-highest run-getter of that tournament, said about his team’s form: “We are in a much more reasonable position than has been made out to be following our losses in the WCLC.
“We played some really good cricket in the UAE during the ICC World T20 Qualifier, and believe our recent form and momentum are quite good.”
Khurram, who is one of only three UAE players that also played the last edition of the CWCQ (the others being Amjad Ali and Amjad Javed), compared qualifying for the ICC CWC 2015 to a second wind for UAE cricket, saying: “It's going to do a lot of good to UAE cricket. The last time we played in an ICC Cricket World Cup was way back in 1996.
“Lots of rules have been changed since then, for the Associate teams. And now, we've got a very good team, and I think this time we have got a very good chance. Over the last three or four months we've been doing really well, so I think it's going to re-energise UAE cricket if we continue the momentum and qualify.”
Talking about the other teams in Group A and how they stack up, Khurram said: “All these teams are very good. There's no doubt about it.
“The one thing that you can do is to play your own game, play it to perfection, play it with the maximum talent you have. And forget about who you're playing against. Yes, the other sides have played a lot of matches against us and know what we're capable of - we finished fourth at the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier, so I think everyone will be looking at us as well - that we have a very strong team.
Predicting some good cricket in New Zealand and hoping for good turnouts for all 48 games at the seven venues, Khurram said: “I think it is going to be a wonderful tournament.
“If you see around the world, from the Associate countries, there are a lot of cricketers that are going up to play for Full Member teams - like from Ireland there are a few, and from Holland there are a few as well. So you know there are players capable of playing in and against any international team in the world.
“So it's a very good opportunity to go and have a look at the young players as well as the Associate teams and how they play. And therefore I think it's a great opportunity for people to come out and watch the cricket in New Zealand.