Associate nations have in the past been criticised for fielding teams of amiable, yet ageing ex-pats and in so doing undermining the development of young, home-grown talent. It is certainly true that in the 1980's and 1990's top associates drafted in veteran mercenaries with first class experience to bolster their ranks. Nolan Clarke (Holland) and Derek Kallicharran (USA) spring to mind. Indeed in the 2004 ICC Champions trophy the USA gave ODI debuts to three Jamaicans in their forties and handed an international swansong to former West Indian test batsman Clayton Lambert. The average age of the squad was 35 and only two were born in the USA.

The following year at the ICC Trophy in Ireland the USA retained virtually the same squad along with another rent-an-international, Hamish Anthony, a former West Indian international. The debacle of USA cricket has been well documented and the lack of a development programme has seen them fall way behind the leading associates. This short-term, knee-jerk cameo approach to international cricket has to be stamped out if associates are to gain credibility and respect.

It was a delight to see Ireland progress to the super 8 stage of the world cup with a young team largely comprising of home grown talent nurtured through age group competitions. Niall O'Brien, Boyd Rankin and Will Porterfield grabbed the headlines and in the process secured professional county contracts in England. However, Canada retained a core of West Indian stalwarts in Des Chumney (38), Austin Codrington (39) and Sunil Dhaniram (38). In a bizarre selection they also fielded former West Indian test star Anderson Cummins at the tender age of 41. With the exception of Dhaniram these gnarled old troopers looked past-it and hopelessly out of their depth.

Clearly there is a role for an experienced leader in any team. For Holland, Roland Lefebvre and Tim De Leede shone on the pitch and have now both taken key development roles within the KNCB. Jim Davidson of Canada has invested much of his time in ICC training camps to nurture young talent. Steve Tikolo of Kenya is a calm, paternal influence on the new generation of Kenyan batsman, including Maurice Ouma and the exciting Tanmay Mishra.

But what of youth? Who are the players who will take their nations to the next level, to celebrated victories over test match opposition, to applause and acclaim on the world cup stage? I am pleased to say there is currently a rich seam of young talent in the associate world. Let me introduce a few to you.

Alex Obanda - Kenya - 19

This young batsman, bubbling with confidence, has honed his technique through under 17 and under 19 internationals and is now making an impact in the senior side with scores of 30, 85 and 79* in his first three ODI's. His emergence has helped re-invigorate the Kenyan top order after veterans Kennedy Otieno and Ravindu Shah left the international scene. He scores at a fast rate and has shown an appetite to take on bowling and hit hard, long and aerial. His aggressive intent therefore provides an ideal foil for the more circumspect accumulation of Maurice Ouma and David Obuya.

Hiren Varaiya - Kenya - 23

Variaya's slow left arm orthodox bowling has proved a useful weapon in the Kenyan arsenal and provides a balanced spin attack with the off-spin of Tikolo and Kamande and the part-time loopy leggies of Collins Obuya. While not a prodigious turner of the ball Varaiya has shown admirable consistency and an ability to tie up an end to create pressure. To date he has been more prolific in first class cricket than in ODI's taking 38 wickets in 10 first class games. The control Varaiya offers has allowed Tikolo to unleash the raw and enigmatic Nadiah Odhiambo as a partnership breaker. He looks to be leading the new wave of spinners looking to take up the mantle from veterans Jim Davison, Dwayne Leverock and Kyle McCallan.

Alex Kervezee - Holland - 18

This Namibian-born top order batsman made 47 as a 16 year old on his ODI debut against Sri-Lanka at Amstelveen in 2006. His assurance and composure at the crease mark him out as a rare talent. His trigger movements are quick and decisive giving him plenty of time to play each stroke. He never appears rushed or unduly troubled and is rarely beaten by a delivery. Once set he looks like he could bat all day but frustratingly he has only made one ODI half century in eighteen games. He signed a two year professional contract after the world cup with Worcestershire but had a modest season in 2007 and failed to force his way into first team contention. Perhaps 2008 will be the season when he breaks through at county level.

Sean Silver - Namibia - 17

This precocious young batsman was the star of the African under 19 tournament scoring two centuries. He has since made his first class debut in the South African provincial challenge and represented Namibia A against the touring Canadians. Along with fellow under 19 scholar Raymond Von Schoor he looks to be a fixture of Namibian batting for years to come.

Gary Wilson - Ireland - 21

Wilson's international appearances have been limited by the form of Niall O'Brien but he seems destined to play a major role for his country in years to come. He was recruited by Surrey in 2005 and has impressed coach Alan Butcher and been rewarded with a 2 year contract. Like many keepers he is busy at the crease and crouching behind the stumps. He scores quickly with an impish and innovative array of stroke-play and could develop into a useful top order pinch-hitter for club and country. He made his ODI debut against India in June this year, scoring 13 runs.

Louis Klazinga - Namibia - 21

Klazinga is one of the young Namibian fast bowlers who have helped Namibia gain recognition as a competitive team in the South African domestic scene. In 1st Class games he has taken 26 wickets in 9 games at an average of 19.88 while in List A games 15 wickets have fallen in 8 games at 21.66. Experience at first class level has certainly accelerated his development and Klazinga will be relishing the prospect of establishing himself as a star of the associate world against his peers in the Intercontinental cup and the forthcoming WCL division 2 on home soil.

Mark Jonkman - Holland - 21

Pace is a rare and valued commodity in the associate world and this flying Dutchman has had established batsmen hopping. The ability to prize out wickets with genuine pace has been the holy grail for associate coaches. The only player from an associate nation to break the 90 mph barrier has been fellow Dutchman Andre Van Troost and unfortunately his international career was limited to the ICC trophy in 1990. Jonkman cannot claim to possess searing pace but he has enough rascal to ask questions of established batsmen. At this early stage of his development he has experienced problems with consistency, economy and a controversial action but despite this he remains a potential wicket-taker. The consistency of Edgar Schiferli and Ryan Ten Doeschate has enabled the Dutch to use Jonkman in short, aggressive spells, giving him license to bowl quickly without worrying unduly about his economy rate.

Malachi Jones - Bermuda - 18

2007 has been a forgettable year for the Bermudans. They were embarrassingly uncompetitive at the world cup and defeats to Denmark and Uganda in the autumn further compounded a miserable international season. The retirements of Clay Smith and Dean Minors left the batting fragile, while the farcical treatment of the ever reliable Saleem Mukkudem earned them few friends, home and abroad. Retirements have forced the selectors to look to youth with batsmen Jekon Edness and Stephen Outerbridge. However, the most promising young player looks to be seamer Malachi Jones. He made his senior debut last year at the WCL regional qualifiers. He had a consistent if not destructive tournament at the WCL division 1 before making his world cup debut against India, taking the wicket of Robin Uthappa. It is fair to say that he has yet to make a big impact in the senior side but if Bermuda are to arrest their current decline, Jones will have to spearhead their recovery.

Sharrad Vesawker - Nepal - 19

Nepal is one of the up and coming nations in the associate world and have invested their future with development of youth. Their progress to the semi-finals of under- 19 world cup in 2006 was a magnificent achievement. Unfortunately for them the dream of world cup qualification must seem a long way off as they head to Guernsey for the World Cricket league division 5 next year. If they are promoted by several divisions, as I'm sure they will be, and in time make the world cup this young batsman will play a key role. He first grabbed the headlines by scoring 82 against an England team including future stars Liam Plunkett and Tim Bresnan, as a 15 year old in 2004 U19 world cup. He also played a key role in the plate final in 2006 by taking two wickets against New Zealand. He made his first class debut in the 2004 inter-continental cup in 2004 making a half century against the UAE. The following year against the same opposition he made his highest score of 89. Certainly one to watch for the future.