Cricket's lesser lights look to go Down Under
ALL SMILES: Captains of the 14 participating teams at the World T20 Qualifiers pose in Abu Dhabi. - Supplied photo
Dubai - Fourteen teams will contest the ICC Men's T20 World Cup Qualifiers over the next fortnight
The big boys are already there, cricket's powerhouses. The lesser lights, cricketing minnows, as has been the case, will have to do it the hard way.
Ten teams - India, Pakistan, hosts Australia, New Zealand, England, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the West Indies - lay in wait for the ICC T20 World Cup next year.
These 10 teams have already begun preparations but 13 Associate teams and one Test-playing Nation will begin a journey to see if they can book their tickets to the showpiece Down Under.
Not all 14 can go though as there are only six seats available for the long-haul trip to the Northern Hemisphere.
Over the next fortnight, these 14 teams will be locked in an intense battle, across Dubai and Abu Dhabi, to see if they can be among those six teams who will get the chance to rub shoulders with the big guns.
So, there's a whole lot at stake, for these teams, who will be trying to punch above their weight.
The 14 teams have been divided into two groups of seven each with Scotland, the Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Namibia, Singapore, Kenya and Bermuda pooled together in Group A and hosts UAE, Ireland, Oman, Hong Kong, Canada, Jersey and Nigeria making up Group B.
Each team will play each other once and the top team from each group will advance to the semifinal. That's not all, though. On account of finishing top of the group, both those teams will directly qualify for the T20 World Cup.
The next three highest placed teams from both the groups will qualify for the play-offs to determine the other four qualifiers.
Scotland, joint winners of the previous edition in 2015, will get the qualifiers started when they take on Singapore in the first match of the tournament at the ICC Academy in Dubai on Friday.
Scotland, who are also the top ranked side in the event, go in to the competition on the back of a dramatic one-run win over Ireland, in a warm-up game.
The Irish, who are a Test-playing nation now, have a strong unit with the likes of Kevin O'Brien, Paul Stirling, George Dockrell and Boyd Rankin, in their line-up.
Their tournament opener is against Hong Kong in Abu Dhabi, on the same day.
The Netherlands, who shared this trophy with Scotland four years ago, will play Kenya, the 2003 ICC World Cup semifinalists.
The Dutch haven't warmed up just yet, losing both their warm-up games, to Ireland and Oman. But they have enough experience in Ryan ten Doeschate and Roelof van der Merwe, to turn the tide.
Meanwhile, Kenya too didn't begin well, going down to Jersey and Canada, and they will look to turn it around.
The UAE square off against neighbours Oman in their opener, also on Friday.
The other six teams in the competition -Bermuda, Canada, Jersey, Namibia, Nigeria and Papua New Guinea will begin their campaigns the following day.
The group stages will end on October 27 and the play-offs will be played on October 29 and 30. The semifinals will be held on November 1, while the third-place match and the final will be played on November 2.
FYI:WHAT: ICC Men's T20 World Cup Qualifier
WHERE: UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi)
WHEN: October 18 to November 2
GROUP A: Bermuda, Kenya, Namibia, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, Singapore
GROUP B: Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, Jersey, Nigeria, Oman, UAE
FRIDAY'S MATCHES (UAE TIME)Scotland vs Singapore
Hong Kong vs Ireland
Kenya vs Netherlands
UAE vs Oman
PLAYER WATCH:George Munsey (Scotland):
Coming off a solid 86 against Ireland in Scotland's second warm-up game leading up to the ICC Men's T20 World Cup Qualifier, Munsey would be the man to watch in the tournament. A left-handed opening batsman, he added to his reputation of being one of the most explosive in the game when he smashed the second fastest T20I hundred (off 41 balls) ever against Netherlands earlier this year.
Ryan ten Doeschate (Netherlands)
A T20 veteran, ten Doeschate will have to play a pivotal role if Netherlands are to qualify for the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2020 in Australia. Named ICC Associate Player of the Year on a record three occasions, in 2008, 2010, and 2011, TenDo, as he is referred to, will be the fulcrum that the Dutch middle order revolves around. No mug with the ball, he has scalped 13 wickets at an average of 18 in T20 Internationals.
Paul Stirling (Ireland)
Swashbuckling Irish opener - Stirling has starred many a time in previous editions of the event, most notably in the final of the 2012 final when he stuck 79 off just 38 balls as Ireland beat Afghanistan to qualify for the next T20 World Cup. This time around too, his team would rely heavily on him and his new partner at the top of the order - Kevin O'Brien to provide the team with explosive starts.
Ahmed Raza (UAE)
The left-arm orthodox spinner who has been appointed captain for the hosts for this tournament is a experienced and wily practitioner of the good old art of stifling the runs in the middle overs.
Having played 28 T20Is, he has claimed 14 wickets at a very impressive economy rate of 6.78.
Collins Obuya (Kenya)
Obuya, as the old cricketing fans would remember was instrumental in carrying Kenya to the ICC World Cup semi-finals in 2003. A leg-spinner and a right hand middle order batsman, he might not be at his very best now but if Kenya are to be competitive, his experience will be instrumental. He comes in to the event having struck a well-timed 49 in one of the warm-up games against Jersey in Abu Dhabi.