This week saw some good news in Associate cricket, with several nations working around the challenges of the global pandemic to announce series in April.
First cab off the rank was Namibia, who start a bilateral multi-format series against African rivals Uganda this Friday.
With both sides having gone over a year without playing international cricket, the T20I and 50-over matches will assist them in finding some form ahead of several important ICC events. For Namibia, there is the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in October, as well as planned events in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup League Two qualifying pathway for the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup. Head coach Pierre de Bruyn acknowledged the importance of ‘The Big Dance’ to his plans with the team as they take on Uganda: "Every match is crucial building up to the T20 World Cup and allows for us to look at new combinations and possibly a couple of fringe players. The players trained very hard during the lockdown period and this is a fantastic opportunity to show off their skills."
For Uganda meanwhile, the series will be Lawrence Mahatlane’s first outing as coach since signing on last year. Mahatlane, who mentored South Africa’s side at the 2016 and 2020 editions of the Under 19 World Cup, has stressed the importance of youth pathways to local development, and is expected to field an experimental squad in Windhoek. Like de Bruyn though, he is keeping one eye on the ICC pathways events later in the year, especially the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Challenge League series scheduled for September in Jersey: "It is an exciting tour as Namibia is where we want to be. It will give us the opportunity to see where we are against an ODI team and what areas we still need to work on, especially now with five more months to go before our tour to Jersey."
In accordance with Namibian COVID-19 regulations, crowds will not be allowed at the host ground Wanderers, but Cricket Namibia is planning to provide streaming coverage for the matches.
Nepal to host Netherlands and Malaysia in men’s triangular T20I series
Elsewhere in the Associate world, and Nepal have gone one better than a bilateral series by announcing a T20I tri-series with Malaysia and the Netherlands. Set to be played across a week from the 17th to the 24th of April, the double round-robin series will be the first official international matches in over a year for the participating teams, and an impressive logistical effort made possible through sponsorships from local motorbike and cement companies.
For Nepal, the series comes as local coronavirus cases have been brought back under control after a peak late last year, and the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) pointed to the spring weather as being well-suited to cricket. The series will be played in a bio-bubble, with all matches to be held at Kathmandu’s TU (Tribhuvan University) ground, and CAN president Chatur Bahadur Chand acknowledged the work of the Netherlands and Malaysian boards in assisting to make it possible: "I would like to thank both Netherlands cricket and Malaysia cricket for working closely in a very short duration to get this series happening. We are delighted to announce the return of international cricket to Nepal."
🇳🇵 Nepal to host Netherlands and Malaysia for a tri-nation T20I series starting 17 April. pic.twitter.com/jKWHflZFfT— ICC (@ICC) March 26, 2021
As with the Namibians, Dutch coach Ryan Campbell is using the matches to test his squad depth ahead of Netherlands’ crucial ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League home series against Ireland (planned for June in Utrecht), and of course their appearance at the T20 World Cup in October.
None of the overseas-contracted Dutch players will make an appearance, and several young prospects such as Vikram Singh and Philippe Boissevain are expected to add to their caps. Campbell expressed his excitement at finally getting his team back on the pitch: "After not playing since November 2019, I am overjoyed at the announcement of the Tri Series in Nepal. The boys have worked so hard for over a year with so much uncertainty on when our next match will be. Playing Nepal and Malaysia in Nepal will present us with an extremely tough re-entry into World Cricket but it’s a challenge we are very much looking forward to."
Malaysia for their part have been approved to travel by the Ministry of Sports and Youth, and Malaysia Cricket Association president Mahinda Vallipuram thanked CAN for hosting the series: "It is indeed very pleasing to see the revival of international cricket after a year-long drought. Nepal is a great cricket country and Malaysia is happy to be in Nepal to restart our international journey! We thank CAN for the opportunity."
Germany’s quadrangular men’s T20I tournament shelved
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good news for the planned series, with Germany’s upcoming quadrangular men’s T20I tournament at Krefeld shelved as Europe contends with a new surge in infection rates. Set to be the first use of the newly-completed Krefeld facility, the series was scheduled to be held between the 13th to the 16th of May, and feature the hosts along with Spain, France, and Norway. However, a deteriorating health situation and new lockdowns have forced the German Cricket Federation (DCB) to push back the tournament, which was due to serve as a warmup ahead of the European regional qualifiers to the T20 World Cup. The DCB and other boards remain committed to playing the series once it is deemed safe to do so.
Carl Sandri announced as PNG’s new head coach, replaces Joe Dawes
Papua New Guinea’s coaching team has received a shakeup, with national coach Joe Dawes replaced by Carl Sandri, who also takes on the role of high performance manager overseeing the men’s, women’s and junior programmes. Sandri played for Italy between 2012 and 2017, and has been working in recent years within the coaching sphere in Australia - most notably at the women’s section of Prahran Cricket Club in Melbourne, where he mentors Australian allrounder Annabel Sutherland.
He is also a sports teacher at the prestigious St. Kevin’s College in Melbourne. Sandri is expected to begin his tenure with PNG this week, however his arrival date in Port Moresby is still to be determined as health authorities in the country are currently battling to contain a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Outgoing coach Joe Dawes is working on the transition process, and was part of the team which decided on Sandri as his replacement. He has high hopes for the new partnership between Sandri and Cricket PNG: "Carl is a ripper, he has tremendous experience, high quality references and reputation and has the advantage of already being involved within Associate cricket. He is enthusiastic, has passion for the game, is certainly qualified and will fit in well at CPNG especially with the playing group."
Dawes, who stepped down unexpectedly last week, had served for three years in the position and guided the Barramundis to numerous onfield successes, including qualification to the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 and this year’s T20 World Cup. He cited a desire to spend more time with loved ones as a major factor in his decision: ‘After ten years travelling the world with my cricket roles it is time I spent some time at home helping my family.’
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