The ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier New Zealand 2014 (CWCQ) will be held between 13 January and 1 February across seven venues in New Zealand. A total of 10 teams will compete for the final two spots in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 (CWC) in Australia and New Zealand, and Group B captains Sarel Burger of Namibia, Peter Borren of the Netherlands and Davis Arinaitwe Karashani of Uganda have said that qualification to the ICC’s pinnacle would be a dream come true.
Namibia captain Sarel Burger, who played in Namibia’s sole campaign at the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2003 said: “It's a dream come true for any cricketer, playing in the ICC Cricket World Cup.
Namibia’s best performance in the ICC CWCQ was a runner-up finish at the 2001 edition in Canada. A similar feat or better will earn it its second ICC Cricket World Cup appearance, and Burger felt his side was ready for the challenge of the unknown conditions of New Zealand, stating: “We haven't played a lot of cricket in New Zealand - we haven't been up there since I know.
“But as we know, the wickets there are quite quick and quite greenish. I think they favour seam-bowlers a bit better. But at the end of the day, you must be prepared to play in any conditions, and the team must be prepared to play wherever, so we don’t worry too much about that - it doesn't play that big a role in our planning all the time."
With the stakes so high for all ten sides, it wasn’t a surprise to see teams enlist additional resources to help them prepare for the ICC CWCQ 2014.
Burger revealed how Namibia had profited immensely from the insights provided by Jonty Rhodes, who helped the side prepare for the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier UAE 2013 and the CWCQ, saying: “I must say, the supporting staff have been great, and once Jonty came in, he gave a whole new kind of energy into the whole set-up.
“To have someone like him, with his life experience and cricket experience, is a great asset to our team. With the new coach, Dougie Watson, it's a great setup we have, and the guys are giving 110 per cent, and are giving their absolute best now."
The Netherlands, which incidentally beat Namibia by two wickets in the cliff-hanger final in CWCQ 2001, appears relaxed in the lead-up to the 2014 edition, according to captain Peter Borren.
Borren, who was born in Christchurch and who also played for the Netherlands in the last edition of the ICC CWCQ in South Africa in 2009, said: “I’m really looking forward to representing the Netherlands in New Zealand, my country of origin.
“I have played and toured all over the world with the Netherlands team, but this will be my first trip to New Zealand with the boys. Whilst it will be all business during the tournament, I hope a few of the boys will take the opportunity to take a break afterwards and enjoy some scenery, golf and yummy wines.”
The Dutch have traditionally been strong performers in 50-over cricket over the last decade, and have qualified to the last three editions of the ICC Cricket World Cup (2003, 2007 and 2011).
Talking about how qualifying for cricket’s biggest tournament has worked wonders for the game in the Netherlands, 30-year-old Borren, who played in the 2007 and 2011 editions of the ICC Cricket World Cup, said: “Generally, cricket struggles to gain a lot of media exposure in the Netherlands. However, ICC Cricket World Cups are our window of opportunity.
“Not only does that exposure encourage more kids to play, but it also gives those kids who already play a real special incentive to be the best they can be. So cricket in the Netherlands needs its national team to be competing on the world stage as often as possible.”
Talking about his team’s chances of progressing all the way to the final, Borren said: “I would say that we have a very good chance of qualifying. I think we have a well drilled side which has a great balance of talent and experience.
“We have a really balanced bowling attack that can be changed to suit any conditions. I think New Zealand will give us a real mix of pitches, from very flat to maybe some seam and bounce. I believe we have the flexibility to adjust to whatever we encounter.”
Fellow Group B side Uganda will be looking to qualify for its maiden ICC Cricket World Cup. After finishing 10th in the ICC CWCQ 2001, 12th in 2005 and 10th in 2009, the team from Africa is aiming to create history in this edition of the CWCQ by reaching the final.
Reflecting on the possibility of qualification to cricket’s most prestigious event, Uganda captain Davis Karashani Arinaitwe said: “Cricket in Uganda is in about fifth spot, so our getting to the ICC Cricket World Cup would get us a lot of recognition and a lot of press.
“So for us as a nation, it would be a very, very big honour. Thirty seven million people would be very, very happy for that. Personally, it would be a dream come true. Every sportsman plays hoping he will play at the top level, so for me, as an individual, to lead the side into that kind of a World Cup experience would be a great honour. It would be a very good reason to retire!"
Previewing his team’s Group B opponents, the skipper said: “All the four teams in Group B are quite familiar to us. We have played against them all a number of times, apart from the Netherlands, who we haven't played much.
“But the other three are teams that we have been following. We do not want to look at the teams in particular - we want to take it one game at a time. We intend to look at and better our game as cricketers playing for Uganda. And we hope we can win the day against whichever team comes our way."
Arinaitwe played in the ICC CWCQ 2009 in South Africa, and, with the likes of Roger Mukasa, Benjamin Musoke, Frank Nsubuga, Laurence Sematimba and Charles Waiswa also returning to the side, Uganda have an experienced nucleus as it heads to New Zealand.
However, Arinaitwe asserted the Uganda team will continue to rely equally on all players, saying: “I think Uganda has always displayed the fact that we are a very good all-round team. We don’t have merely a couple of players that do well on the international circuit. We do not rely heavily on any particular players. And that has shown over the years, so I would expect all the 15 players that travel all the way to New Zealand to be able to do the job for our country."