Associate players must develop their skills for the longer form of the game if they are to continue to improve in one-day cricket on a global level, according to ICC High Performance Manager Richard Done.

Speaking ahead of the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup final between Ireland and Canada next week, Mr Done said it was vital that teams did not neglect multi-day cricket as it improves aspects of players' games that can then be applied to the one-day format as well.

'The world has just seen the top Associate teams taking part in the ICC Cricket World Cup in the West Indies but it's important to point out that they do not just play ODIs, they also get the opportunity to play the longer form of the game,' said Mr Done.

The final of the Intercontinental Cup, which is the ICC's flagship first-class competition, will get underway on Tuesday at Grace Road, Leicester and by Friday we will know the identity of the new champion.

'Multi-day cricket presents challenges to players that they just don't face in one-day cricket. They need more depth in their skills, more patience and a different approach. The skills they develop at this level can then be transferred and adapted to make them relevant to the one-day game,' he said.

'The Intercontinental Cup is very competitive, high-class cricket and is an important one for the development of cricket outside of Test countries. There is a tendency for Associate teams to concentrate on the one-day form and that is understandable given the high profile that exists there. But most coaches will agree that playing longer cricket makes cricketers better one-day players as well. And if Associates have aspirations of playing Test cricket, those skills will need to be developed.'

Having topped their respective groups, Canada, which will be contesting its second final, and defending champion Ireland will battle it out on the neutral turf of Grace Road.

Ireland topped Group A after registering a very determined outright victory over the United Arab Emirates at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi in February. Earlier in the competition it had beaten Namibia and drawn with Scotland, which was enough to top the group with 43 points from Scotland who ended up with 35.

The Irish won the cup at the end of 2005 by beating Kenya in a thrilling game at Wanderers CC, Namibia and the players will be determined not to relinquish the title they fought so hard to win that week in Windhoek.

Meanwhile, Canada has got to its second final in the three-year history of the event having beaten Bermuda and Kenya along the way. It lost to the Netherlands but still managed to finish above the Dutch, who could not beat the other two teams in Group B. In 2004, the first year of the competition, Canada lost to Scotland in the final at Sharjah Stadium.

The new format in the ICC Intercontinental Cup means sides play a minimum of three four-day matches in this tournament. This increases to seven four-day matches later this year and in 2008 when the event will be a full round-robin and global format.

That compares to a minimum of just two three-day matches per year under the previous structure which, until the semi-finals, was regionally based rather than global.