For Canada, a side with a long history in international cricket, World Cricket League division 2 already represents a historical nadir in their cricketing fortunes. Following a dismal showing in the World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand last January, Canada found themselves stripped of the ODI status they had enjoyed since 2006 and dropping down the one-day rankings to 20th - their lowest point in the pecking order of international cricket since victory over the USA in 1844 established them at the pinnacle of a then admittedly limited and notional table.

Canada will be missing ChohanAt Windhoek next week Canada's first priority will be arresting this decline, though going into a tough competition with a weaker team than contested the WC qualifier, even a top four finish may be a big ask for Mukesh Narula's men. In a country where cricket is still primarily an amateur affair, commitments to work or study often limit player availability; consequently Canada will arrive in Namibia without Raza-ur-Rehman or Khurram Chohan - respectively their lead run-scorer and top wicket-taker in New Zealand, both by considerable distance - and likewise absent from the teamsheet are first-team regulars Hiral Patel, Junaid Siddiqui, Jeremy Gordon and Harvir Baidwan.

With Canada having had effectively no competitive cricket for nearly a year, new coach Narula is faced with the task of putting together a team practically from scratch at the side's training base in Harare. With poor weather hampering training and some players arriving late due to work obligations, a heavy opening defeat in their opening warm-up match against Zimbabwe A was perhaps to be expected, and so it was, CJ Chibhanha's 155 for the hosts setting up a 111 run win on Tuesday.

Nonetheless Narula remains bullish about his young side's preparation and prospects. "These aren't contracted players, so we plan around availability, and coming from an indoor situation on to turf wickets is always tough." And indeed there were signs of improvement in the second game, which Canada lost by the narrowest of margins against a strong Zimbabwe A side - all but one of whom have full international experience. "Even at less than full strength, we're competitive" says Narula, and he's not alone in his opinion, "not just in our dressing room, but the opposition too. A lot of these Zimbabwe players have played Kenya, Uganda and Namibia recently, and they're telling us 'these boys will be right up there.'"

Jimmy HansraWith iconic, long-serving captain Ashish Bagai already a year into retirement, it falls to 30 year-old Jimmy Hansra to lead a comparatively inexperienced side into the tournament. Compensating somewhat for the absence of other senior players is the introduction of the newly-qualified Srimantha Wijeratne and Umar Nawaz, who have previously turned out for Sri Lanka u19s and Abbottabad respectively. Youngsters Satsimranjit Dhindsa, Nikhil Dutta and Nitish Kumar - all products of the Canadian youth system - are somewhat untested, though they accredited themselves well on the recent ICC Americas high performance tour to Barbados. Adding some experience to the squad is the big-hitting veteran Rizwan Cheema, who returns to the side after a year-long absence.

Cheema's return bolsters a comparatively strong middle order, which also features skipper Hansra and keeper Tariq. With newcomer Navneet Dhaliwal thus far emphatically justifying his selection with an average of nearly 70 in the warm-ups against an attack at least as strong as any in the tournament and Dutta too showing himself a capable batsman, there is a fair amount of depth to the Canadian batting line-up. Nonetheless, with Nawaz, Wijeratne and Gunasekera all struggling for form, the top of the batting card looks rather fragile.

In terms of bowling this Canadian attack is something of an unknown quantity, and on the pace-friendly wickets of Windhoek the absence of Chauhan and Gordon - Canada's most reliable pace pairing - will surely be felt. But Narula is upbeat, arguing that his bowler's lack of international exposure may yet prove an advantage. "The bowlers have been going well (against Zimbabwe A) and the other teams won't have seen much of them. (Cecil) Pervez has taken eight wickets in the last three games against batsmen of ODI and Test standard."

Indeed Pervez seems to have hit a rich vein of form, and Dhindsa has supported him ably with the new ball in the warm-ups. With Dhaliwal or Soraine available at first change, Hansra will not be short of seam bowling options. Nonetheless genuine pace is in short supply, and options are not always a substitute for penetration. The Canadian slow-bowling cohort affords some variety, with Parth Desai's reliably economical left-arm spin complementing Dutta's offspin, and Hansra also has part-timers Gunasekera and Cheema to call on if necessary. Nonetheless Canada's bowlers will need to stay at the very top of their game to be competitive in a tournament as tough as this.

Indeed on paper most would expect this Canadian side to struggle to a mid-table finish at best, but Narula nonetheless remains confident in the young side he has assembled. "They have the talent, and the hunger."

Previous previews: Namibia

Canada WCLd2 Fixtures:

17 Jan -Netherlands v Canada (United)

18 Jan - Kenya v Canada (Wanderers Affies)

19 Jan - Rest/reserve day

20 Jan - Nepal v Canada (Wanderers

21 Jan - Canada v Uganda (Wanderers Affies)

22 Jan - Rest/reserve day

23 Jan - Namibia v Canada (United)

24 Jan - Final (Wanderers), 3rd v 4th play-off (United), 5th v 6th play-off (Wanderers Affies)

All matches are scheduled to start at 09.30 local time