THE Isle of Man cricket side’s bid to qualify for the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 World Cup faces its next hurdle this summer when it takes part in the European Division One tournament.
A top-two finish in July 8-14’s competition would earn the Mighty Manx a place at November’s ICC Global World Twenty20 qualifier, where Gareth Dawson’s charges would battle it out with the likes of Ireland, Scotland, Canada and Afghanistan for a place with the sports big boys in Bangladesh next year.
Before getting carried away with pitting their collective wits against Messrs Cook, Amla and Dhoni, Gareth Dawson’s squad first have to repeat their heroics of last September when they beat Sweden by eight wickets to triumph in European Division Two.
Reflecting on that tournament victory, Dawson said: ‘We did it the hard way in Corfu after not playing well against Finland in our last group game. To be fair though we’ve been due a bit of luck after things haven’t gone our way in previous tournaments in Spain and Belgium. Occasionally you need the rub of the green and we got it that afternoon with Greece beating Cyprus.’
After a number of more far flung and more exotic destinations, this year’s Div One competition will take place in south east England, with Sussex CCC’s County Ground among one of the impressive venues for the tournament.
Dawson is realistic about our chances in the 12-team competition that draws together the likes of Austria, Belgium, France and Norway: ‘The top four seeds – Jersey, Guernsey, Italy and Denmark - will rightly be the favourites, but countries like Germany who play in the World Cricket Leagues will also be a danger.’
‘One of the biggest challenges will be playing on grass wickets, with the majority of our players having been brought up on Astroturf surfaces where the ball bounces a bit more. Techniques maybe found out in that respect, but that will be the same for most of the other sides in the tournament.
‘We’re going to be playing at better grounds and have the use of decent facilities and wickets and that will be great experience for the guys.’
‘We’ve also got to remember it’s Twenty20 and anything can happen in that form of the game.’
The pragmatic Yorkshireman’s main aim is to finish in the top 10 and avoid a swift return to Division Two that will befall the bottom two. This will hopefully help the Isle of Man Cricket Association’s long-term aim of moving from affiliate to associate membership of the ICC and the funding boost that that would bring.
To help achieve this goal Dawson has been putting his charges through their paces over the winter affording his charges just a month off after Division Two success. Dawson is hopeful of organising a series of warm-up games ahead of the trip to Sussex. The Manx will, however, have to prepare for the competition without one of their star men, Gareth Morris, who is having some time out of the international limelight. The Castletown batsman cracked 275 runs at an average of 39.29 at the Corfu tournament and his explosive batting will be missed.
‘Gareth is a massive loss, but I haven’t given up completely on changing his mind. However, the core of last year’s squad remain and there is now an opportunity for some of the younger players to come through and earn a place. There are some talent youngsters over here and the opportunity is there for those that have impressed at U19 and U17 level if they want to grasp it.’
l The Isle of Man Cricket Association is looking for new sponsorship for the island’s cricket sides. Contact Dawson on 332893 if you think you can help.