International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Haroon Lorgat has called the ICC World Twenty20 qualifier that begins in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Tuesday "the biggest development event in cricket history".
It is not an empty boast as 16 teams from cricket's second and third tiers will play 71 matches at five venues over 12 days, with two places at stake in September's main event in Sri Lanka.
The UAE tournament follows on from 12 qualifying events to reach this stage that took place in locations including Ghana, Slovenia, Nepal and Florida. The previous ICC World Twenty20 qualifier in 2010 involved eight teams playing 17 matches over five days at two venues, while last year's ICC Cricket World Cup, won by India, featured 49 matches and was spread over 43 days and 13 venues in three countries - Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka.
"The fact this qualifier's footprint, thanks to the tournament itself and the qualifying events that preceded it, touches so many places around the world is a great sign for the health of the game and interest in it globally," Lorgat told Reuters on Monday. For the first time, a cricket tournament involving teams outside the world's top 10 will have global television coverage. The ICC has reached agreements with its official broadcasters in Asia, Africa and the Americas to show six matches over the final three days.