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Meet the minnows: the six Associates who have qualified for the World T20

Suyash Upadhyaya | Updated on: 30 July 2015, 21:58 IST

Playing in the world championship of a sport shouldn't be a birthright. Look at the FIFA World Cup, for example - every country in the world tries to qualify for it, but only the hosts and 31 others can play in it.

In cricket, the 10 Test-playing nations seem to have a birthright, and that's purely because of the sheer paucity of countries where the sport is played at a high level.

This is why the ICC's decision to let only these 10 countries play in the 50-over World Cup has been so roundly criticised - it is counterproductive for the growth of the game internationally.

Instead, the World Twenty20 was made a 16-team event from last year, and that's now the only thing for the 'less-privileged' Associate teams to look forward to.

The main tournament is set to take place in India next year.

The qualifying tournament

The 14-team ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers finished last week, with a rained-out final leading to a share of the trophy between Scotland and the Netherlands. Ireland, Hong Kong, Afghanistan and a surprise package in Oman rounded out the qualifiers.

These six will play in the first phase of the tournament with the bottom two Test-playing nations, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. They'll be split into two groups of four each, with the top-placed team in each group joining the other eight Test nations in the Super Ten stage.

This, in effect, means that there's little to no chance that any of the Associates will get to play a top team.

And yet, this is the greatest prize the Associates can now play for, and play they must. Here's how the six qualified teams stack up.

01
Scotland

Their southerly neighbours and brethren (read: enemies) from England invented the game and spread it wherever the British empire went.

The Scots split from the English cricket establishment in 1992 and became an Associate member of the ICC in 1994.

They made the 1999 ICC World Cup but have remained minnows. In their three World Cup appearances, in 1999, 2007 and 2015, they have failed to register a single victory.

They have also made two World Twenty20 appearances - in 2007 and 2009. In 2007, they earned their lone point at a top-level event, when their match against India in Durban was rained out.

At the qualifying tournament held in Ireland and Scotland, the co-hosts had home advantage throughout the tournament, playing all their matches in Edinburgh. They topped Group B, qualified for the main tournament, and then beat Hong Kong in the semi-final.

They'll be to prove themselves in India, especially now that they have the expertise of England's World T20-winning captain Paul Collingwood to bank on. Collingwood is their assistant coach.

Kyle Coetzer is a batsman to watch out for, as he produced consecutive Man of the Match-winning performances against Canada and Oman in the group stage.

02
The Netherlands

Among the Associate nations, no one, with the exception of Ireland, has been as consistent in qualifying for world tournaments as the Netherlands. They've played at four 50-over World Cups and two World T20s.

The Dutch caused the biggest upset in the second edition of the tournament (2009), when they beat hosts England in the opening match at the home of cricket, Lord's.

At the last edition in Bangladesh in 2014, they came through the group stage to qualify for the Super Ten stage, and promptly beat England again.

In the qualifying tournament, Netherlands beat opposing group toppers Ireland in the semi-finals, comfortably chasing down a total of 128 with five wickets to spare.

Over the last four years, Netherlands' top player, the South African-born Ryan ten Doeschate, has not represented them owing to his commitments to leagues around the world. In his absence, another all-rounder, Mudassar Bukhari, has stepped up to become their star performers, and one to watch out for.

03
Ireland

Since 2007, Ireland have taken it upon themselves to keep the Associates' flag flying at world tournaments. They have played three World Cups and every World T20 barring the first.

From beating Pakistan and Bangladesh in the 2007 World Cup, to England in 2011 and the West Indies and Zimbabwe in 2015, they've been knocking on the Test club's doors for a while now.

They've also performed decently at World Twenty20s, and only missed qualifying for the Super Ten stage in 2014 due to a heavy defeat to Netherlands.

At the qualifying tournament, they guaranteed their spot in next year's tournament by topping Group A, before losing to the Netherlands in the semi-finals.

They have some extravagant talent in their ranks - like opener Paul Stirling, middle-order hitter Kevin O'Brien and young spinner George Dockrell. The latter could be their trump card on Indian pitches.

04
Hong Kong

Unlike the three countries listed above, Hong Kong don't have homegrown players. Their team is composed of expatraites from the subcontinent.

While that doesn't always bode well for the cricketing health of a country, Hong Kong punched above their weight to make the semi-finals of the qualifying tournament.

They defeated Afghanistan in the group stage, and even managed to upset the mighty Irish earlier in the tournament.

At the top level, their biggest (and only notable) feat is beating hosts Bangladesh in the first round of the 2014 tournament.

05
Afghanistan

Everyone's favourite sporting underdogs, Afghanistan have done their strife-torn nation proud. They made history by qualifying for the ICC World T20 in West Indies in 2010.

Over the next half-a-decade, their Pakistan-bred flair players has caught the public imagination. The flowing locks of pacer Shapoor Zadran and the war-painted face of new-ball partner Hamid Hassan have become iconic in the hearts of cricket fans.

This would be their fourth appearance at the ICC World T20, to go with their maiden World Cup appearance earlier this year, signalling great consistency at the Associate level.

Asghar Stanikzai is a calm captain, and knows how to get the most out of his star performers.

While progress to the Super Tens still looks a bridge too far, Afghanistan have a lot to look forward to in the world of cricket.

06
Oman

Of all the Associates that have qualified, Oman are the surprise package.

Having never qualified for any world tournament before, they will be extremely raw when they make their maiden World T20 appearance next year.

To qualify for the main tournament, Oman had to play African Associate champions Namibia, and in a memorable match, chased down a target of 148, sparking scenes of wild jubilation.

In former Sri Lanka Test captain Duleep Mendis, they have a coach who has tremendous experience, and knows the attitude one must have when playing against the bigger teams. After all, it was under his captaincy that Sri Lanka won their first ever Test series in 1985.

First published: 30 July 2015, 21:58 IST
 
Suyash Upadhyaya @SuyashU

A believer of the Indian football dream and an ardent cricket fan who likes to explore the nuanced side of all sports, Suyash finds creative expression in sports writing. Lover of literature, Liverpool FC, and an earnest economics enthusiast, he has just joined Catch News after completing his post graduation at Xavier Institute of Communications, Mumbai. When not staying up the whole night watching football, he loves spending time playing the sport itself, reading, and generally wondering when he'll decipher everything about the world around him.

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