First among them is the war-torn Afghanistan. If you are a cricket fan, then you would have to have been living in a cave not to know of the meteoric rise of the Afghans. Although some of the dates of birth are questionably accurate at best, the Afghans are a young side. Mohammad Shahzad, Karim Sadiq, all of the squad members called Zadran; these are all young players who have yet to develop and mature.
At present, Afghanistan are capable of beating any Associate opposition who might come up against them, but when they come up against bigger and better opponents, the Afghans' ill-discipline often counts against them. The only way to improve that is with experience, and experience of playing against better players against whom you simply have to improve. Certainly there is no shortage of talent.
Afghanistan will grow and become more experienced and disciplined.
Afghanistan are also unafraid to select promising young players, unafraid to give them the experience that they might need. when this experience is with a core of wise heads around the dressing room, this can only be helpful. Afghanistan will get more and more competitive against lower-end Full Members.
Canada have suffered a brutally obvious slump in the last few years. They have lost experienced players in droves, and suddenly have been left with a squad that is chock-full of teenagers and young players who weren't ready to represent their country.
However, in the last couple of games in the Intercontinental Cup, as well as the Auty Cup, they have shown that the young players are maturing, that they could become a strong Associate side. Particularly impressive have been classy left-hander Ruvindu Gunasekera and West Indian born quick Jeremy Gordon. Both have found their feet very well, and suddenly yet more youngsters (Pervez, Nazar, Dutta, Pathan) are pushing the young players who are getting established. It is worth noting that cricket is the fastest growing sport in Canada.
Ruvindu Gunasekera is one of the most promising non-Test players.
The Canadian youth policy is starting to bear fruit. While I have been quite vocal in my critique of Canada's cricket, I may have to look into acquiring some humble pie to eat. If there is a graph of their progress, I think it is beginning to take an upward curve again.
Ireland always look good, and the five years on the horizon are no exception. The established young players, Stirling and Dockrell, will become international stars. Thompson, Balbirnie, Young, Shannon - they are all emerging players who appear to have bright futures.
The Interprovincial Series, which has been a huge hit in its first year, may become a first-class competition within the next five years. Ireland may become a Test nation. They may replace Zimbabwe. Or they may find their progress hindered by the Asian bloc of power in the ICC, but I expect them to continue smoothly along the 2020 Strategy outlined by Warren Deutrom, and to continue beating Full Members.
James Shannon is one of a bright generation of Irish youth.
Basically, there is a lot of pressure on Ireland to continue their development in the next five years. Any perceived stalling in their progress will be dissected and analysed, and the pressure on them is absolutely huge. However, Cricket Ireland is an excellent organisation, and one which I believe will find a way to achieve any goal it sets itself.
Kenya is an interesting case. On the one hand, there are plenty of young players, some of whom, like Rakep Patel, are showing good signs of developing as international stalwarts. However, I believe that they lack the strength in depth and competition for places that is present in all top sides.
Their future depends heavily upon the infrastructure work being done by the Janmohamed administration in Cricket Kenya. If they can get the East Africa competitions working well, get the best 44 Kenyans playing, and maybe start an East Africa Championship with two- or three-day matches, then they can bridge the gap between club and international cricket. Club cricket, though, remains very shaky and needs urgent work.
Alfred Luseno is one such back-up player who seems some way short of ODI standard.
To conclude, fifteen good players will not bring you five good years. What they need is a group of players who are pushing the incumbent national players for places in the national side. When you look at players like Rajesh Bhudia, Ramesh Mepani, Alfred Luseno and Dominic Wesonga, I wouldn't say that they are banging down the door to the dressing room.
Namibia's system of playing such a young team in the Provincial Series in South Africa seems to be rewarding the men behind it. These players, when they play in the under-19 World Cup, and for the national team, are more ready for the challenge than their counterparts who are playing their first List A and first-class matches.
However, there is no substitute for facilities and opportunities. Many talented cricketers can only train once a week, owing to their farming commitments and non-proximity to the facilities in the capital Windhoek. However, any side can overcome these issues, it is Namibia, who fought back so well from their ritual humiliation in the World Cup a decade ago.
There is no team anywhere more committed to working hard than the Namibians. They also have some very unorthodox players in their ranks, like Christi Viljoen, whose wrong-footed action was never coached out of him. This combination makes them very dangerous, but I think that they may have reached their level already, unless a greater degree of professionalism can be brought into the Namibian game.
The Netherlands are a curious case. On the one hand, they can probably call upon half of South Africa if they want, but on the other, they intend to develop native talent as much as possible. The trouble is, the native players don't seem half as good as those they import.
Also, their strongest and most gifted players seem to be gradually departing the squad. Firstly, Ryan ten Doeschate is absent while playing for Essex, then Alexei Kervezee does the same for Worcestershire. You can't blame them - they are professionals. Now, Tom Cooper appears to be absent, although he is currently on a pre-season boot camp with his employers, South Australia, and you get the impression that boot camps are awfully non-optional.
Players from the Dutch Topklasse don't seem to be as complete as those from elsewhere.
The Dutch need to keep hold of their best players, and work on their domestic scene. Another of these promising players is the teenaged Daniel Doram, who I think has the promise to be a superstar for the Dutch if they can hold onto him, while the presently half-baked Pro Series venture with Scotland could be a very important part of the future.
The Scottish approach seems to be doing something right. There is a wave of young players coming through the ranks; quite possibly more than they can exactly handle. There seem to be about thirty players all of roughly the same standard, which makes the selectors' jobs exceedingly difficult.
One problem is the huge discrepancy between club and international cricket. Every player in the national side is an all-rounder for their club side; even the 'keeper-batsmen. It is very important that players who play for Scotland have well-defined places in the side, and that Kyle Coetzer is not having to find a way who arrange his ten bits-and-pieces team-mates.
For their club side, everyone is an all-rounder, which can mean that neither discipline is developed fully.
If Scotland can harness their county pros, and stop batting Gordon Goudie in the top four, and ensure that everyone has a specific job, then they could be a very strong Associate team. At present, though, they punch below their weight, and Cricket Scotland will have to work hard in coming years to fix the issues that affect them at present.
I hope you enjoyed this mini-series - tomorrow, the Player of the Week!