Josh Ball (Royal Gazette, Bermuda)
The Island's inclusion in a second-tier Intercontinental Shield has rescued the National cricket team from the international wilderness, and means that there will be some four-day cricket over the next 18 months.
And it appears as if the brains behind the newly-expanded competition from its original eight team format was none other than BCB chief executive Neil Speight.
According to a BCB statement issued yesterday, Speight 'masterminded' a proposal, supported by the BCB Executive, to the ICC Development Committee to revise the competition into a two tiered tournament'.
The statement continues: "This proposal was endorsed by ICC management and subsequently passed unanimously by the committee. The suggestion for change garnered wide support from many high performance countries that are all seeking to narrow the gap between Associate and Test cricket nations."
With only the top six Associate nations being granted a spot in the ICC Intercontinental Cup, Bermuda's ninth place finish at the World Cup qualifiers in South Africa last month could have seen them left without any four-day cricket on their schedule.
However, the creation of a second tier ICC Intercontinental Shield competition will now see Bermuda take on Namibia, Uganda and United Arab Emirates.
Although the fixtures have yet to be decided an ICC spokesman confirmed that teams will play three matches during an 18 month period with each side either having two home games and one away, or two away and one at home.
While Speight's plan has certainly benefitted Bermuda, it has also been welcomed by other Associate nations, with Ireland's chief executive Warren Deutrom a particularly vocal supporter.
"Cricket Ireland is delighted with the new structure for the 2009-10 Intercontinental Cup, from a number of perspectives – the possible introduction of Zimbabwe, the inclusion of all High Performance countries, the streaming of teams, and the inclusion of prize money," he said.
"All of these demonstrate a clarity of thinking and progressiveness of mind in the ICC Development world, and I would especially commend Neil Speight and his colleagues at Bermuda Cricket who first mooted the idea. We are fortunate to have Neil's mind and presence working hard to further Associate Cricket on the ICC Executive Board."
Of all the benefits of the new system, the introduction of prize money for the first time has been especially popular.
There will be a total of $250,000 in prize money up for grabs with $100,000 for the winners of the ICC Intercontinental Cup and $40,000 for the runners-up.
The winners of the ICC Intercontinental Shield will collect $25,000 with the runners-up pocketing $10,000 and matches in both divisions will have the prize of $3,000 for an outright win.
And there was praise for Speight closer to home as well with BCB president Reggie Pearman delighted that the new format gave Bermuda a second chance.
"The BCB and the cricketing fraternity are especially grateful for Neil's efforts in providing a meaningful format and progressive proposal to the ICC for the Intercontinental Cup," he said.
"Subsequent to the ninth place finish in South Africa the Bermuda senior squad was faced with a dearth of international fixtures, which are vital to the success of a high performance program.
"This new format has provided an additional "bite of the cherry" for our squad and I expect that they will respond accordingly. I look forward to the opportunity for Bermuda to continue to play first class multi-day cricket and to welcome fellow Associate members to play in our beautiful country."