Mumbai, Feb 17: Amid reports that the ICC could make the next World Cup a 10-team affair, the four Associate teams -- Kenya, Netherlands, Canada, and Ireland -- would be eager to show their worth in the mega-event that starts on February 19.
Though there would be no burden of expectations on any of these Associate members, down to four from the previous edition's six, Kenya and Ireland have in the past shown that opposition teams cannot take them for granted.
While Kenya shocked everyone by becoming the first ICC Associate member to reach the semi-finals in 2003, the Irishmen became the cause of Pakistan's first round exit in 2007 before making the Super Eight stage.
In fact, Kenya's six wins in 23 World Cup games betters Sri Lanka's four wins in their first 26 Cup matches and is more than the Test-playing Bangladesh's five wins in 20 games.
Playing their fifth World Cup, since making their debut in 1996, the Afican team has defeated higher ranked teams West Indies (in 1996), Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and a forfeit win against New Zealand (all during their dream run in 2003), besides the two victories against Canada in 2003 and 2007.
With their sole victory over Canada not enough to get them past the first round from a group also involving England and New Zealand in 2007, Kenya would be hoping for a better show this time around.
Placed in Group 'A', Kenya's fortunes will depend on the performances of key players like the experienced duo of Steve Tikolo, who has been coaxed to come out of retirement, and Thomas Odoyo, the first player from a non-Test playing team to achieve the double of 1500 runs and 100 wickets in ODIs.
They are the only two Kenyan cricketers who have featured in the team's previous four appearances in the tournament.
Besides, the 2003 leg-spinning hero Collins Obuya, who has since then reinvented himself as a batsman, and pacer Peter Ongondo would also have to play a crucial role for the team.
On the other hand Ireland, playing in their second World Cup, would be eager to reproduce the form that saw them reaching the second round, ahead of the more established Pakistan and Zimbabwe, where they registered a 74-run win over Bangladesh, four years ago.
Though one of their trump cards in that tournament, Eoin Morgan, has shifted loyalties for England since then, the Irish side has received some sort of compensation in the form of Ed Joyce, who represented England in 2007.
The key for Ireland, placed in Group B, would be their 26-year-old skipper William Porterfield, who will be expected to lead from the front while opening the batting, the O'Brien brothers -- all-rounder Kevin and Niall -- the highly-rated Paul Stirling and pacers Boyd Rankin and Trent Johnson.
The other two Associate countries -- Canada and The Netherlands who are placed in Group A and B respectively - are in their fourth World Cup each. Though they don't have any impressive results to show, both have had their moments under the sun.
With two wins - over Namibia and Scotland - in 14 matches, The Netherlands' record is not impressive but they have shown the appetite for a fight in the limited opportunities they have got.
In 2010 ICC Associate Player of the Year Ryanten Doeschate, who averages 68.55 in 27 ODIs having scored 1234 runs in additon to scalping 48 wickets at an average of 20.93, they have got a genuine all-rounder, who was bought by Kolkata Knightriders for USD 1,50,000 during the IPL auction last month.
They have also got the experienced Bas Zuiderent, who has played in all the World Cups his country has qualified in, the exciting Alexei Kervezee, and Tom Cooper, who averages 65.44 in 10 ODIs having and has scored 589 runs.
Besides, a weak bowling attack another aspect of worry for them is the fitness of skipper Peter Borren, who is reportedly suffering from an abdominal injury.
Canada, who first played in the World Cup in 1979, had their moments of glory in 2003 in the form of their only win against Bangladesh by 60 runs.
Skipper John Davison managed to scare the daylights out of the opposition bowlers with his aggressive stroke play, and also provided important breakthroughs with his more than useful off-breaks.
The presence of a nearly 40-year-old Davison, who scored the fastest World Cup ton then in just 67 balls against the West Indies, would be a morale booster for the squad led by wicket-keeper Ashish Bagai, one of the vital cogs in the side.
Other players to look forward to in the side are the flamboyant Rizwan Cheema, pacer Henry Osinde, who is considered one of the fastest among Associate nations, and leg spinner V Balaji Rao, who had played for India's under-19 squad before migrating. PTI