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By Daniel Beswick– The 2022 edition of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup may have only just concluded, though attention in Africa has already moved to the 2024 event, with sub-regionals beginning in Rwanda.
Eight teams travel to Kigali for Sub-Regional A, beginning on Thursday, with eight more aspiring 2024 qualifiers doing the same for Sub-Regional Qualifier B, which begins on December 1. The top two from each tournament go on to the regional qualifier next year alongside Zimbabwe, Namibia and Uganda, where two World Cup spots are up for grabs.
Having missed out on automatic qualification to the regional final, Kenya are red-hot favourites to progress to the next round, though competition is fierce for the second spot.
Botswana is the second-highest ranked T20I team in Sub-Regional A (44th), and will be eager to go one better than their last campaign. The men in light blue narrowly missed out on a regional spot in the last cycle thanks to a three-run defeat to Tanzania, in what was a de-facto final. Once again wicket-keeper/batter Karabo Motlhanka captains the side, with Kenyan influence of their own in the form of head coach Joseph Angara.
Fellow Kenyan Martin Suji leads Rwanda, a side that shouldn’t be underestimated in home conditions. Despite losing a recent T20 series with Tanzania, the team carry strong individual threats in the form of leg-spinner Kevin Irakoze, and batter Orichide Tuyisenge. Should the bowling corps match Irakoze’s pressure, Rwanda will be tough to roll over.
Malawi on paper stand the next-best chances of upsetting the apple cart at the tournament after a strong 2022 ACA Africa Cup, and are ranked 52nd on the T20I rankings.
Of the remaining four sides, Lesotho is the oldest side in terms of ICC Membership, having been under the governing body’s umbrella since 2001, though with records of playing matches as far back as 1986. Lesotho was one of Seychelles’ two victims in the last qualifying cycle, with the men from the Indian Ocean also knocking off Eswatini. They’re led in this tournament by Naidoo Krishna.
It’s a debut T20 World Cup qualifying event for Mali, who will attain their first ICC ranking at the tournament. Cheick Keita will skipper the team in what will be a historic event for his country.
Though last but not least, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the work of Saint Helena, who return to qualifying after last featuring in 2018, and with a population of just 4000 people. It makes them the second-smallest ICC Member in terms of total population, with the Falkland Islands the only Member with fewer people. Cricket has been played on the island for over 150 years, with a matting cover over a concrete square on the island’s only ground.
Regarded as one of the most remote islands in the world, just one flight arrives to the island per week, every Saturday at 1:25pm from Johannesburg. The flight re-fuels, before departing back to South Africa at 2:30pm. Airlink, the airline that services the route, provided free fares for the team, allowing coaches and physios to join the players.
In preparation for the upcoming tournament, the side has prepared with a camp in Johannesburg, and is captained by all-rounder Scott Crowie. Crowie made scores of 45 and 63* in the 2018 sub-regional matches against Malawi and Lesotho respectively, and also picked up at least one wicket in every match of the campaign, finishing with 10 scalps from six outings.
Sub-Regional B starting on December 1 pits Tanzania alongside Cameroon, Eswatini, Gambia, Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
Both Sub-Regional Qualifiers are live and free on ICC.tv. (ICC)