Organized by the ICC, the World Cricket League is a series of tournaments played in a One-Day International setup. A large number of nations compete in the World Cricket League and it was created with non-Test nations in mind, giving them a stage on which to showcase their skills and their status, with the idea that they can one day achieve Test status.
The World Cricket League is based on the World Cup qualification performances, with teams split into several groups depending on their performances in those qualifying rounds. More divisions have been added to the league over time, but when it began in 2007 there were seven tournaments spread across five decisions.
In later years a set number of 6 teams joined most divisions, with eight joining the lowest division. Two teams are promoted from each of these divisions, two are relegated and the other two remain.
To decide who went where, the ICC looked at the Test rankings. The top 10 teams were disregarded and have no place in the World Cricket League, and teams from 11 to 16 were placed in the top division, and so on. There was some extra space left so that additional teams could enter via regional qualifiers, which take place in all major continents.
The top division includes Ireland and Afghanistan, who are ranked just outside of the top ten. Other nations include Papua New Guinea, the United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands, Kenya, Nepal, Hong Kong and Scotland. All of these teams have achieved some degree of success on the global stage, including in Test matches and in lower ranked continental competitions, such as the European Championships and the Asia Cup.
This is not the case for Division 3, where nations like Canada, Singapore and Uganda are, or in Division 4, which is home to Denmark, the United States and Bermuda. In the lowest division you will find nations that are not renowned for their cricket at all, teams that many cricket fans didn’t even know played cricket at a professional level. These include Botswana, Fiji and the Cayman Islands.
In the regional qualifiers you will find even more “obscure” nations, including the likes of Belize, Argentina, Mexico, Greece and South Korea. In fact, cricket exists in most countries around the world, although it is often considered to be a very minor sport, and in some cases it is played only by expats from major cricketing nations.
As the highest ranked team in the World Cricket League, Ireland have been perfectly placed to dominate this league and they have claimed victory on two occasions, but it hasn’t been as easy as you might have expected. Afghanistan have been one of the best performing nations, rising up the rankings after starting in Division 5, and looking unstoppable as they beat everyone that was sent their way. The United Arab Emirates have also enjoyed comfortable victories in their divisions, and during the very first tournament, Kenya were the ones to claim the Division 1 crown.
In fact, Ireland, Afghanistan, Kenya and the Netherlands are some of the World Cricket League’s most consistent performers and the teams often ranked as the best, but there are also some up-and-comers rising through the ranks.
One of the teams that has consistently struggled, even in the lower leagues, is Vanuatu, which is a tiny nation.
The World Cricket League is a great stage on which part-time professionals and amateur players can strut their stuff and show domestic clubs all over the world just what they are made of. The tournament doesn’t get as much as exposure as other ICC events, but it certainly gets more than many of these players are used to, particularly when you go further down the divisions and the rankings.
The nations in the lower divisions have also been given a great chance to create some huge records, getting even more exposure for the players that set them. This is because the better players and teams can find themselves competing against lowly teams, getting better and better and outperforming their current status, whilst the teams around them stagnate. Afghanistan were a good example of this, as they rose very quickly through the rankings, but one of the most impressive records to date was set by the United Arab Emirates’ batsman Khurram Khan, thanks to a tournament run total of close to 1500. Nepalese bowler, Basalt Regmi, also holds an impressive record at the other end of the crease, with more than 100 wickets to his name.