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.

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

  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.

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      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.

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      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.