For many traditionalists cricket at associate nation level is seen as a frivolous, self-indulgent, amateurish clique that devalues the stature of the sport and makes a farce out of global tournaments. Thankfully the ICC do not share this view and have provided a global qualifying tournament structure, professional organisation and coaching as well as significant financial backing to enable associate nations to bridge the gap between themselves and their test peers.
It remains to be seen whether this investment will be rewarded with a competitive showing by the 6 associate nations in the West Indies next year. In recent years there have been some sparkling individual performances by associate players but as teams the associate nations have withered under the pressure and professionalism of their much heralded test cousins.
But what if the second tier pooled their resources, could they then take on the challenge of test opposition? Here I outline an Associates XI that I believe could spring an upset in a one-day game against a side with Test status.
Opening Batsman: Arul Suppiah, Malaysia (photo, upper right). Promising Somerset opener who is a patient accumulator and capable of anchoring an innings. Also a useful left arm spinner.
Opening Batsman: John Davison, Canada. A player of vast experience who has shone on the big stage before. First class experience in Australia has enabled him to bat and bowl well in pressure situations. The nearest thing in the associate world to Sanath Jayasuriya, unleashing fireworks with the bat and bowling with control and guile.
Batsman: Steve Tikolo, Kenya. The ace in the pack. A class act with the bat and also a useful off spin bowler. His calm assurance and wide array of shots would underpin the innings.
Batsman: Ryan Watson, Scotland. He has had an excellent year in the Intercontinental Cup and also in ODIs. An attacking batsman who, when in form, can pulverize any bowling attack.
Batsman: Alexie Kerveeze, Holland (photo, middle right). 17 year old prodigé who impressed greatly with the ease and grace in which he composed his innings against Sri-Lanka in the July ODIs. He has won a contract with Worcestershire for the 2007 season.
Batsman: Eoin Morgan, Ireland. A technically accomplished young batsman who made 99 on his ODI debut. He has aspirations to follow Ed Joyce and qualify for England. He has impressed for Middlesex in the Twenty20 Cup with some dazzling stroke-play.
Wicket-Keeper: Niall O'Brien, Ireland. Unlucky to be released by Kent at the end of this summer. A pugnacious batsman who is energetic and vocal behind the stumps.
All-rounder: Dougie Brown, Scotland. Veteran all-rounder who was once considered good enough for England and still sets himself high standards. Would be used as a strike bowler and a destructive batsman towards the end of the innings.
All-rounder: Gerrie Snyman, Namibia. An aggressive fast-medium bowler who has a knack of breaking partnerships. Can also produce bellicose cameos in the late middle order.
Bowler: Binod Das, Nepal. The captain and star of the Nepalese team who is the most economical and reliable seamer outside the test world.
Bowler: Umar Bhatti, Canada (photo, lower right). A talented young seam bowler who bowls a searching line and length with no little venom.