ICC Media Release
Mark Kratzmann may not be a name that many cricket fans will recognize. That is hardly surprising really. After all, his sport is tennis, he played it for a living professionally and, what's more, he did it with a fair degree of success.
A doubles specialist, Kratzmann won 18 ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) titles, including three Masters Series events, in Cincinnati (twice) and Stuttgart and he represented his native Australia in the Davis Cup.
That would be enough most people but for Kratzmann the competitive fire still burns and now he wants to make his mark on the cricket field.
The 41 year-old will this weekend line up for Hong Kong in the ICC World Cricket League Division 3 (ICC WCL Div 3) in Darwin and if he can inspire his team mates to the type of heights he reached on the tennis court then a fantastic reward awaits them.
The top two sides in this tournament that also includes Argentina, the Cayman Islands, Fiji, Italy, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania and Uganda will earn a place in the ICC WCL Div 2 in November, a tournament that is due to be played in Windhoek, Namibia.
And a top-four finish there means a berth at the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier (formerly the ICC Trophy) in the United Arab Emirates in 2009 and the chance to secure a spot in the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2011.
That, of course, is still a dot on the horizon for the players that have gathered in Darwin but after the success Ireland enjoyed in the Caribbean you cannot fault them for dreaming of achieving something similar in four years' time.
Kratzmann has already shown he will not be there just to make up the numbers. Having swapped one type of net for another, the left-handed batsman and left-arm spinner has been picked after being named Hong Kong's Cricketer of the Year.
The Asian side, which finished as runners-up in last year's Asian Cricket Council Trophy, will certainly believe it has every chance of a top two finish in this tournament.
Seeded second in Group B behind Uganda, Hong Kong is the only one of the eight sides on show that has experience in ODIs, having played two matches, against Bangladesh and Pakistan, in the 2004 Asia Cup in Sri Lanka.
Not surprisingly it lost both those matches although it was not disgraced and, three years later, it still has a core of the squad that took part in that tournament with seven players featuring in its Darwin line-up.
One of those players is off-spinner Ilyas Gull, who took 3-46 against Bangladesh and has now been installed as captain. The squad has been coached by former India internationals Robin Singh and Sameer Dighe with the latter, a former wicketkeeper, looking after affairs in Australia.
Uganda is seeded ahead of Hong Kong in Group B. The African side did finish last in the ICC Trophy in 2005 but that exposure will surely have benefited its players and if they can turn that experience into a positive then it will help justify the pre-tournament expectations.
The Africans have one of the most successful development programs among Associate nations and that is reflected in the fact that six of its squad in Darwin played in last year's ICC U/19 Cricket World Cup in Sri Lanka. Look out for all-rounder Patrick Ochan, who was the side's leading run-scorer and wicket-taker in that junior event.
The Cayman Islands and Tanzania make up the rest of Group B and the Caymans are another side that has had some exposure at a higher level in the recent past as it took part in last year's Stanford Twenty20 tournament in Antigua.
It also played in the ICC Intercontinental Cup as recently as 2005 and clinched its place in Darwin with a strong display in the Americas Region Division 1 Championship last August.
During that tournament, involving the top five sides from the region, the Cayman Islands beat Canada and had the leading bowler on show, Roland Ebanks, who captured 10 wickets. Watch out too for Pearson Best, who made an unbeaten 116 against Argentina.
Tanzania is seeded seventh of the eight teams ahead of only Argentina, but its pre-tournament schedule indicates it is intent on upsetting the formbook.
The Africans undertook a grueling three-week tour of India to prepare, playing 10 one-day matches, winning four of them and getting the chance to play at the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai, the venue for last November's ICC Champions Trophy final.
Abhik Patwa made Tanzania's top score on the trip with 90 against the CCI, while all-rounders Hamisi Abdullah and Hasnain Damji also impressed with bat and ball.
Group A features top seeds Papua New Guinea (PNG) and it, together with fellow East Asia-Pacific (EAP) side Fiji, are favourites to progress to the semi-final at the expense of Italy and Argentina.
PNG piped Uganda to 11th place in the 2005 ICC Trophy, winning that match by a single run, and the side's experience of playing at that level should stand it in good stead.
It will also have benefited from a visit by a strong Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) touring side earlier this year that included out-of-favour England wicketkeeper Geraint Jones, who also happens to have been born there.
Fiji reached the Darwin tournament by beating the Cook Islands and Japan in last year's EAP Cricket Trophy in Brisbane and it means the players will have some understanding of Australian conditions.
Fiji is without its talismanic all-rounder Neil Maxwell, the former New South Wales first-class player, but can boast an effective opening bowler in Samuela Draunivudi and the Rika brothers, Josefa and Colin, will turn heads whenever they bat together thanks to their aggressive running between the wickets.
Italy, under captain/coach Joe Scuderi, the former South Australia and Lancashire all-rounder, has a core of players with experience of either Australian or South African conditions which will certainly help its cause.
The Italians did not disgrace themselves in last year's European Division 1 Championships in Scotland when they played against the best teams in the region and although they failed to win a match against Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark, the experience of playing at that higher level will have stood them in good stead for this event.
The fourth team in Group A, Argentina, gained a place in Darwin at the expense of the United States of America, currently suspended over governance issues. It benefited from a tour by a MCC squad in 2006 that was led by former England captain Mike Gatting and including former Zimbabwe batsman (and now England assistant coach) Andy Flower and ex-England players Richard Dawson and Anthony McGrath.
The Argentine side even won one of its matches against the touring team and a key figure that day, Gary Savage, features in the squad for this tournament. Also included is Grant Dugmore, taking time out from his day job as the ICC Regional Development Officer for the Americas region.
Eight umpires, including four from Australia and one each from Indonesia, Japan, PNG and Singapore will officiate in the matches, while former New Zealand international umpire Brian Aldridge will act as tournament referee.