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Former stars of the ICC CWC Qualifier hail its magnitude

Winning the trophy saved Bangladesh cricket, say legendary Bangladesh graduates
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Success at the event changed the face of cricket in our country, say Zimbabwe, UAE and Sri Lanka greats

The 10th edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier (CWCQ), will be played in New Zealand from 13 January to 1 February, and stars who have featured in past editions of the ICC CWCQ have hailed it as one of the most significant opportunities for emerging cricket nations.

Ten leading Associate and Affiliate sides – Canada, Hong Kong, Kenya, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Uganda – will take part in the CWCQ NZ 2014, and the finalists will join the 10 Full Members as well as Afghanistan and Ireland in the ICC Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, which will be played from 14 February to 29 March 2015.

Earlier known as the ICC Trophy and renamed in 2009, the ICC CWCQ has served as a stepping stone for emerging stars of the game, as well as offering a ticket to cricket’s most prestigious event, the ICC Cricket World Cup (CWC).

Khaled Mashud, who famously hit a six to level the scores for Bangladesh in the final of the ICC Trophy 1997 against Kenya in Kuala Lumpur, said: “An ICC Cricket World Cup qualification can revolutionise cricket in a country. I can testify to that. The ICC Trophy 1997 success changed the general perception in Bangladesh of cricket as an amateur game.

“If we had failed in 1997, the excitement and buzz and the professional structure that you see around Bangladesh cricket today may never have materialised.”

Mashud’s skipper in that event, Akram Khan, said: “Football was the undisputed number one sport in the country and cricket’s lack of international success meant the game’s standing faced a struggle for survival. It was a collective frustration that was being felt by the country’s cricket fraternity.

“Against this backdrop, the 1997 event arrived and the ICC’s brilliant decision to award three spots from associate countries made us believe that we had a genuine chance to progress. Doing so changed the face of cricket in Bangladesh.”

Aminul Islam, the top-scorer for Bangladesh in that 1997 final, added: “It will be no exaggeration to say that we had reached a situation where there was the prospect of cricket dying in Bangladesh if we hadn’t qualified. So our ICC Trophy 1997 success came as a breath of fresh air.”

Years before Bangladesh, Zimbabwe had found the ICC Trophy to be a huge springboard for emerging nations desperate to show they belonged on the world stage.

Former Zimbabwe right-arm fast-medium bowler Eddo Brandes, who was the highest wicket-taker at the 1990 edition in the Netherlands with 18 scalps from eight matches, said: “Our making history by winning three consecutive ICC Trophy tournaments was perhaps the most significant, major milestone in our journey towards eventually gaining Test status in 1992.

“In the 1990 edition, we won every single game we played. And that showed we were ready to step up to the next level and rub shoulders regularly with the biggest names in the business.”

Doing well in the ICC Trophy has been the first step for most Associate and Affiliate members towards gaining full ODI status.

Former UAE batsman Vijay Mehra, who played a game-changing innings in the company of Mohammad Ishaq in the ICC Trophy 1994 final against Kenya in Nairobi, said: “The UAE players were all told before their departure for Kenya, that success in the ICC Trophy 1994 would open more doors for them. This tournament would be used to assess the team’s readiness to accept bigger challenges.

“If we succeeded, we would not only have a chance to play the one tournament that every cricketer dreams of featuring in, but also get a chance to play the Australasia Cup 1994 in Sharjah. So in a way, the ICC Trophy was providing us more opportunities to play against the Test-playing nations outside of the ICC Cricket World Cup as well, and helping develop UAE cricket immensely.”

For Sri Lanka, winning the ICC Trophy in 1979 showed the country it could succeed in a truly global event, and contributed to the country’s eventual victory at the ICC CWC 1996.

Former Sri Lanka batsman Roy Dias, the second-highest run-scorer at the ICC Trophy 1979, said: “In those days, and I believe still, the only thing that is better than winning the ICC Trophy is playing in the ICC Cricket World Cup itself. For all of us back then, beating Canada to lift the trophy was as good as lifting a World Cup in any sport.

“Winning the ICC Trophy changed a lot for us amateurs and for cricket in Sri Lanka – for the first time, our regular jobs were made secure by our grateful companies, which in turn ensured we could devote a lot more time to practising and fine-tuning our skills. That then allowed us to add a whole new dimension altogether to our cricket, and put the country firmly on the world map as an emerging cricketing power.”

More information on the ICC CWCQ 2014 can be found here.

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