The schedule for the 2006 InterContinental Cup, announced by the ICC yesterday, gives some indication of the challenges facing the organisers as they set up this global competition for the top Associate countries.

It's bold and ambitious, and a welcome change from the restricted diet of limited-overs matches which is the staple fare of the game outside its traditional centres in the Test nations.

But the fact that almost all the players involved are amateurs, and the limited infrastructure available in most Associates, means that the logistics of putting together the fourteen-match programme must have been considerable.

One consequence of this is that the programme extends beyond the calendar year, with the final two group matches and the final taking place in 2007.

Another is the slightly bizarre fact that for two of the eight participants - Bermuda and The Netherlands - there will be no home game.

For the Dutch, this was the inevitable result of their desire to play all three group matches outside their normal season; over the past two years, playing within a zonal group against Ireland and Scotland, The Netherlands has struggled to put out a full side, with Tim de Leede missing all four games and Luuk van Troost, Daan van Bunge and Darron Reekers taking part in only two each.

Having just squeezed into the 2006 competition by virtue of their position within the ICC's High Performance Programme, this is a vital year for the Dutch, and playing all three matches away from home is the price that had to be paid for improving their chances of all the top players being available.

So their final two group matches will take place in South Africa in November and December, with the ten days between their two games presumably to be occupied with ODIs and a possible match against provincial opposition.

For Bermuda, too, all three games will be away, in Canada, Kenya, and then against The Netherlands in South Africa.

In the other group, apart from the odd fact that the two previous winners of the Cup are drawn together, the main imponderable is that the fourth team will be either Namibia or Nepal, winners of a preliminary play-off which opens the tournament in March.

Whichever side it is will begin their campaign proper with away games against Scotland and Ireland in May, and will then meet the UAE at home in November - in either Windhoek or Kathmandu. Who says the new world of cricket isn't exotic?

After playing each other in what should be a tough match towards the end of August, Scotland and Ireland will then have to wait five or six months before playing their final group games, away to the UAE in January-February.

That means that the final is scheduled for March 2007, where it runs the risk of being overshadowed by the World Cup, which involves six of the eight participating countries.

They begin their warm-up games on 5 March, and the final group games don't take place until 26 March, while the build-up to that tournament will also include the inaugural World League competition, to be held in Kenya at dates which have yet to be announced.

Just how the final of the four-day competition will fare amongst all the one-day excitement remains to be seen, but it is to be hoped that the top exponents of the longer form of the game will get the attention they will have earned.

And it's important, too, for the ICC, who have already indicated that the competition will move to a two-year cycle from 2007-08, with each of the eight countries pitted against each of the others.

That might just make the logistics of the 2006 tournament seem straightforward!