The WCL Championship was a puzzling tournament at times. As I have said before, it seems strange that only 30 of these matches should be official ODIs, especially given how close the UAE (a non-ODI team) were to automatically qualifying for the World Cup, and how many ODI teams they defeated. In my view, it ought to be either that all of these matches were full ODIs, or none at all. It would have been nice to see, and would still be nice to see being tweaked retrospectively.
Rant aside, though, it was a good tournament. 192 of the best Associate cricketers were pitted against each other to try their strength. The oldest among them, I believe, was Khurram Khan, and the youngest was Gurdeep Singh; the age difference: almost exactly the age of Tom Cooper. The diversity on show was incredible; where else would you get matches played in venues as contrasting as the VRA Ground, Sharjah, and the Toronto Curling Club?
Today was a big day for 15 year-old Gurdeep Singh, but a bigger one for the Afghan team.
While the WCL Championship reigned supreme, though, some of those sides on the cusp, like Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong must have felt pretty left out. They go into the World Cup Qualifier with their last 50-over international fixture in April 2011.
That Qualifier, which will be played in New Zealand, starting in January, will be a hugely important tournament. It is the battle for the final two places in the last World Cup these countries will really have a good shot at. Eight of Canada, Hong Kong, Kenya, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, Uganda and United Arab Emirates will go home from New Zealand without a World Cup birth to show for three years' struggles. Two of them will join Ireland and Afghanistan alongside the Full Members in 2015.
Who those two sides will be is open for debate. The three favourites will of course be the Dutch, Scots and Emiratis. Until this week, I would have given Kenya a chance too. The youthful exuberance of Canada should also not be discounted, and if Namibia can get their best players in one place they too could stand a chance. Nepal are something of an unknown quantity, although their performances in the T20 Qualifier were excellent, while Uganda, Hong Kong and PNG are rank outsiders.
I wish all ten teams luck, and hope that the nation who needs it least prevails.