Bermuda's cricketers will have an opportunity to qualify for another World Cup over two years sooner than expected, it emerged yesterday.
While the national team will have to wait until 2009 to re-qualify for the 2011 World Cup in India, the International Cricket Council have revealed that next September's inaugural Twenty-20 World Championships in South Africa will also involve the two leading Associate member countries as well as the top ten cricketing nations.
As a result, this January's World Cricket League (WCL) Division One showdown between the best six Associate countries - which is to be held in Kenya - has now become the qualifying tournament for the ICC's new and exciting competition.
And in a further development, The Royal Gazette has learned that the Bermuda Cricket Board are offering each national team player a bonus of well over $3,000 if the team qualifies for the Twenty-20 World Championships by finishing first or second in Kenya next year.
Bermuda, Holland, Ireland, Scotland, Canada and Kenya are the teams that make up WCL's Division One, with the 50-over tournament between them scheduled to get under way on January 30 in Nairobi, Mombasa and one other as yet unknown Kenyan city.
When contacted for comment yesterday, BCB chief executive Neil Speight confirmed the players would be offered a 'sizeable' qualification bonus, though he declined to reveal the exact figure. But he conceded that the chance to qualify for another massive international competition was a thrilling prospect for all concerned.
'The World Cricket League Division One competition in Kenya next year was always going to be a crucial tournament for us in terms of gauging how far we've progressed since qualifying for the World Cup,' he said. But the news that it will also serve as a qualification tournament for the Twenty-20 World Championships adds an extra element of excitement. To qualify for that tournament would be a fantastic opportunity for any Associate nation and obviously we would love to be one of them. The Board will be doing all that it can to ensure that this happens, and part of that will be to offer the players a sizeable financial incentive.'
The qualification bonus represents yet another large sum of public money being made available to the players. Gus Logie's men are already the highest-paid cricketers of all the Associate nations have negotiated contract terms which will see some of them paid over $20,000 in the four months leading up to the World Cup in March. This is on top of their individual work salaries which are covered in full by the BCB as they devote their time and energy solely to cricket.
A world 20-overs-a-side competition was first conceived of last year after the ICC's top brass had been impressed by the popularity of the fast-and-furious format of the game - first introduced in English domestic cricket but latterly in South Africa, Australia and the Caribbean.
There have been a handful of Twenty-20 internationals in the past 15 months, all of which have attracted big crowds and even bigger television audiences.
Ever-conscious of the need to increase revenues and expand the number of cricket-playing nations, at the ICC's annual conference on July 7 in London, it was agreed that Twenty-20 cricket should play a prominent role in widening the game's global appeal.
Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban are the three South African cities which have been selected to host the Twenty-20 World Championship.