Mumbai:With the 2011 World Cup just over 20 months away, the International Cricket Council is eager to see that the four Associate members who have qualified for it do not feel like 'babes in the woods' in the company of cricket's elite nations.
The ICC is anxious to utilise the intervening period to help its Associate qualifiers Ireland, Cananda, Netherlands and Kenya to gear up for the 50-over mega event to be held in March-April 2011 in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
ICC's High Performance Programme has been entrusted with this important task "to ensure that the top Associate teams are as well prepared as possible to take on and compete with the 10 Full Members at the next World Cup", according to its manager Richard Done.
Penning his thoughts on the onerous job in the June edition of the ICC's official newsletter, Done says that improving their performance to narrow down the wide gap with the top teams is the High Performance Programme's top priority.
The first push for this largely amateur lot of players is to provide them with extra funding to the tune of $3,00,000 annually, according to Done, who sees regular matches between these nations and the higher ranked teams as another "vital" factor towards achieving this aim.
There are also plans to raise the Associate qualifiers' standards by entering them in the domestic first class cricket schedules of full members, Done said.
The ICC's Global Cricket Academy in Dubai has been entrusted with the task of setting benchmarks and assessing the progress of the players "in both physical conditioning and fielding areas. There's no excuse for these standards not to improve".
The Academy also aims to improve the batting of these players through a series of elite batting camps to hone their skills and think more strategically, according to Done.
The mental side of the game will also be dealt with by the continued involvement of Jeremy Snape, who has worked closely with the South Africa team and the Rajasthan Royals Indian Premier League franchise outfit, according to Done.
With match analysis being provided by sports mechanics from India, the bowlers would also be able to learn what to expect and the areas to bowl against opposing batsmen, he said.
Done is confident that though the task is huge, with all available help being provided the Associate qualifiers would have the "very best chance to perform at the pinnacle of the one-day game when they arrive at the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup".