ICC President Percy Sonn (left) and Cricket Kenya Chairman Samir InamdarIf cricket is going to continue its development beyond the game's traditional boundaries initiatives such as the ICC World Cricket League Division 1 (WCL Division 1) are vitally important, according to ICC President Percy Sonn.

Photo shows ICC President Percy Sonn (left) and Cricket Kenya Chairman Samir Inamdar.

Speaking ahead of the inaugural WCL Division 1 1 tournament which takes place in Nairobi from 30 January to 7 February, Mr Sonn said that there was now an exciting structure of competitive cricket outside the 10 Full Members that gave a real edge to the level of competition being played at that level.

'In many ways, the World Cricket League is what the ICC is all about,' said Mr Sonn.

'I believe that raising the standard of cricket in the Associate and Affiliate Members is one of our primary goals as a governing body. Cricket within our 10 Full Members is obviously vitally important to us but we must also continually redouble our efforts to make sure we do not forget our 87 other Members,' he said.

'Events like the World Cricket League show in a real way how committed ICC is spreading this great game all around the world and giving players opportunities like never before.'

The WCL Division 1 1 involves the top six Associate teams - Kenya, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Bermuda and the Netherlands - all of whom have qualified to play in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 in the West Indies.

It is an important event for host country Kenya, too. A semi-finalist from the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003 in South Africa, Kenya is looking to use the tournament to emphasise that result was no fluke as well as showing that it can stage an event of this type successfully.

'It's a great pleasure for us to be hosting this prestigious ICC event in Nairobi,' said Samir Inamdar, chairman of Cricket Kenya.

'We have a long and proud history of cricket in this country and we are determined to put on a great tournament. Cricket in Kenya has been going through a period of transition in recent years but we are very optimistic for the future of the game here and part of the development process for us is being able to host events like this,' said Mr Inamdar.

As the six teams in this competition have all qualified for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007, the WCL Division 1 1 is being used as part of their preparations for that, which opens in Jamaica on 11 March.

But the WCL is about much more than that. Firstly, all games in the tournament carry ODI status so players are competing for their place in the historical analysis of top level one-day cricket. And secondly, the top two teams from this year's WCL will qualify for the inaugural ICC Twenty20 World Championships, which is scheduled for South Africa in September.

The idea of the WCL is to give regular global one-day cricket opportunities to the top 18 non-Test countries. Apart from Division 1, the next eight best from the ICC Trophy 2005 have been allocated to Divisions 2 and 3 events later in 2007 along with the top teams from the five regional qualifying events.

Promotion and relegation will be possible between divisions as each team seeks to move up the world cricket rankings. Events for Divisions 4 and 5 will commence in 2008 as the WCL expands.

This gives each of the 87 Associate and Affiliate Members a clearly defined pathway to progress and develop in world cricket. Every side can now make its own plan as to how it will some day take its place alongside the very best at the ICC Cricket World Cup. It also means that the ICC can identify the relative strengths of these member countries on a more regular basis than ever before.