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ICC scrap Shield comp

Bermuda cricket has been dealt another body blow after the ICC dumped the Intercontinental Shield from its schedule.In yesterday’s announcement the International Cricket Council said that it had scrapped the second-tier tournament, which Bermuda played in last year and early this year, and will instead revert to an eight team, one division, Intercontinental Cup.The make-up of the Cup competition will see the six ODI countries Afghanistan, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, Netherlands and Scotland and two teams from the Division Two qualifiers in April compete in the Intercontinental Cup, which will run from May next year, to December 2012.“In making this decision, consideration was given to the international cricket opportunities now provided to all 95 Associate and Affiliate Members across all three formats of the game,” said Matthew Kennedy, the ICC Global Development Manager.“With balancing these formats in mind, it is important to offer the best non-Test-playing nations the opportunity to compete in meaningful multi-day cricket. And as a result of this expanded Intercontinental Cup, the second division that was the ICC Intercontinental Shield is no longer required.”It means that David Moore’s side will have to finish in the top two in Dubai next April, where they will face Namibia, UAE, Uganda, plus two teams from Division Three, if they are to play any meaningful four-day cricket over the next two years.If not, they will be limited to a diet of one day and Twenty20 cricket, with any longer matches taking place as, and when, they can be arranged.“If we weren’t in it (the Intercontinental Cup) we would have to explore multi-day cricket on a regional basis,” said Neil Speight, the Bermuda Cricket Board chief executive.“I personally believe more members should be playing multi-day cricket because of the benefits it brings, that’s the position I’ve always had, and it hasn’t changed.“When it comes to the end of the event in 2012 they’ll have to reconsider how many countries they want. I think they’ll just go back to the drawing board each time, but obviously a country’s –50 over and T20 performances will play a part in their four-day rankings, because there is no second or third division for four-day cricket.”While the governing body have said that the two teams will be selected from the top four finishers in the Dubai event, the reality is that the ICC Development Committee is unlikely not to pick the top sides.If that were to happen today, then Namibia and United Arab Emirates, who contested the Intercontinental Shield final in Dubai last week, would be the most likely to be selected.Not that Bermuda don’t have an outside chance of forcing their way into the competition, but the route to four-day cricket has been made much harder in the past 24 hours.“It just makes it even more important for us to do superbly well in April,” said Speight. “The narrowing of the focus makes it tough for us, but the door’s still open, we just need to upturn the apple cart.”Coming on the back of the decision to reduce the World Cup to just ten teams in October, Bermuda have seen their opportunities at international level slashed to almost nothing but Twenty20 cricket by the ICC.In making this decision the governing body have essentially limited elite cricket, and the chance to develop over the longer forms of the game to just 18 teams, the 10 Test playing nations, and the eight that will compete in the Intercontinental Cup.For Bermuda and the rest the future looks bleak, and the latest move will do little to encourage countries that there is much point in having a fully functioning development programme.Of the six ODI nations, Canada, Ireland and Netherlands all have a healthy dose of overseas cricketers in their ranks. Similarly, of the six teams that Bermuda will have to beat to stand a chance of making it into the top tier, UAE’s squad is primarily made up of players from India and Pakistan, while USA’s development programme is non-existent and they regularly field a team of 11 overseas players.