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“Everytime I walk onto the field as captain of Japan is a special moment for me”

April 26, 2011 1 comment

A concise, but informative interview with Masaomi Kobayshi in the run up to World Cricket League Division 7 in Botswana.

I must say its great to see mainstream sites such as Cricinfo taking a greater interest in associate level cricket.

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Categories: Cricket Development

PNG’s Tour to Singapore: I Dig This

April 25, 2011 1 comment

Papua New Guinea’s contracted cricketers recently made a short stop over in Singapore on their way to the World Cricket League (WCL) Division 2 tournament in Dubai, where they took on the Singaporean National Team (themselves WCL Division 5 contestants) in two fifty over friendlies. For PNG this was a convenient, and cheap way to squeeze in two important practice games against decent opposition on home-turf and for the Lions, it was a chance to brood the new and young, and test out combinations before their next official tournament (likely to be the annual Saudara Cup challenge against Malaysia as they don’t have any ACC commitments in 2011). Add to this the fact that the series received coverage from the Singapore media outfit, Voxsports, and the tour was a win-win-win situation.

Yes, tours like these don’t happen often enough and the reasons for this are obvious. The assumption made by boards is that starved for funding, a short bilateral series which usually does not draw spectators, will not receive major television or radio coverage, and will therefore not generate much money, is not worth the costs! Fair enough. Often, this is a reality, however I argue that given the dire situation facing non-test playing countries in the wake of that announcement the need to make competitions such as these work has never been more important.

Ofcourse, there are more strategic ways of going about it: tap into potential markets, minimize organizational and travel costs, and advertise well!!!

Nepal, and Afghanistan, for example, both have cricket-mad populations (arguably more so than those of their more illustrious neighbors in the subcontinent). Afghanistan have ODI status, and Nepal have a competitive side arguably capable of competing with most Ranji Trophy teams. A Nepal-Afghanistan bilateral series, or a Nepal-Afghanistan-PNG tri series (if PNG were playing another WCL tournament anywhere in Asia) held in Nepal or Afghanistan would be played in front of sell-out crowds, and live TV broadcasts.

What about the world-class cricket facility in Guangzhou, China? Perhaps a Japan-China-Hong Kong tri-series under the auspices of the country’s national sports authorities?

Canada and the United States? Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, South Africa U-19s? –

Profitable? If thought out properly and managed strategically, why not? And lets not forget the benefits by proxy – players are exposed to different conditions; more matches and competitive cricket; relationships between associations and boards develop whereby future collaboration is possible; and ICC gets a great big ‘associate’ foot shoved up their ass. Ofcourse, short series like this will never substitute for qualification to a World Cup or Test Status, but they give these mostly amateur players exposure, experience, and something to work towards, as their countries climb their way up the long, and seemingly never ending cricket ladder, dreaming of mixing it with the big boys on the big screen.

Thoughts?

Categories: Cricket Development

The Asian Games Conundrum: Should the Middle East sides field teams?

December 6, 2009 2 comments

Cricket will be amongst a number of new sport additions at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China. Given that the Asian Games is the continent’s premier sporting event, this is a fantastic result for the ICC, the ACC, Chinese Cricket, and the other member countries. A brand new cricket-only stadium with a capacity of over 5,000 people is currently being constructed in Guangzhou. In this unlikeliest of locations, one which which belies the sport’s colonial niche, the four test playing countries, China, and a number of other countries will be locked in intense battle not for pride, not for prestige, not for ashes – but for medals Or will they be? The unfortunate reality is that the test playing nations will dominate and destroy with little intensity. The question is how much will they dominate? How severely will they destroy? This will be determined by which non-test playing countries participate and by whom they are represented.

In a continent where many of the top non-test playing teams are dominated by Subcontinental expats with first-class experience, countries who want to and are eligible to participate in the Asian Games at the discretion of their Olympic Associations will struggle to field a team, let alone a competitive one.

The Middle East sides are prime culprits.Syed Asraful Haq added much fuel to the fire by recently advising the UAE not to field a team because they would “outclassed and embarrassed.” This was met by much criticism from Abdul Razzaq Kasim, long time patron of Emirates Cricket, the ECB (Emirates Cricket Board), and Oman Cricket. So the debate rages on. This is what I think.

UAE, Oman, and Kuwait have all indicated their interest in fielding teams at the tournament and may very well do so. The problems with this are multi-fold and serious.

– the tournament will be a farce. Scorecards may read: Kuwait vs India – Kuwait 10 all out, India 10/0 in 0.2.

– this will result in negative publicity for the sport amongst the media, fans all around the world, and governing bodies of the test countries. I can see the mainstream media carving into the likes of the ACC, and ICC about their development programs, and the OCA (Olympic Council of Asia) for allowing such a one-sided tournament to take place at the highest level.

– fans will be dispirited seeing such one sided games and appalling quality from some of the sides. “We should have just sent our local district team to play instead of Oman. It might’ve been a better game.” In the countries of the sub-continent where thousands of immensely talented cricketers never leave their local maidan, the tournament might well espouse sentiments of envy, anger, and complete disrespect towards the sport and its unfair nature.

– I don’t see the top test players being too appreciative of taking two weeks to play in China only to be cornered and trapped in excruciatingly substandard tournament. If the top players do not approve of the tournament, the top associations won’t approve of the tournament. This may lead to it being played by Test U-19 sides or discontinued all together. Nothing could be worse for the game.

– An uncompetitive tournament may leave the Chinese government, press, and public with a poor impression of the sport. The ACC and ICC have pumped millions into cricket in China, and a lack of public or media interest in the sport in not something they need. However, given that Chinese teams are starting to see some semblance of success in the international arena, and the government has made active, long-term decisions to pursue the development of cricket in China, this argument does not have much weight.

So what are the Middle East countries saying? They argue the following:

– Participation will expose local players and officials to a higher level of competition, and will offer them a chance to play on the big stage. This exposure, they argue, will help the development of national players and coaches in the long run. Is one tournament really going to do this? Are ‘nationals’ who have only played the game for two years really going to benefit from being repeatedly peppered by Malinga, or Mohammed Aamer or bamboozled by Bhajji?

– Asian Games participation will spark major interest amongst locals and governments in the respective countries. Success, and not participation sparks long term interest. 10 wicket drubbings are humiliating for fans, and governments will spark criticism, and disinterest in the sport.

– Lastly they say, if China is being allowed to participate without any problems, why is so much noise being made about us wanting to? This arguement has the most merit. In all fairness to the Middle East teams, China will probably be thrashed quite dramatically in the tournament, and this will have its on adverse effects on the development of the game. It all comes down to the ACC’s decision not to hold a qualifier with nationality qualifications similar to the OCA’s. Countries such as Afghanistan, Nepal, Maldives, Malaysia, and Bhutan who field 100% ethnically local sides would have been successful, and participated more competitively at the Asian Games.

The situation that exists is not a pretty one, however what finally transpires remains to be seen. Lets hope we don’t have a situation where we turn on our television sets hoping to watch a day of cricket at the Asian Games only to find out that game has ended four hours ago.

Categories: Cricket Development

A Preview of the Upcoming ACC T/20 Cup Part 1: Group A

November 15, 2009 11 comments

Asian Non-test playing cricket is back in the United Arab Emirates with the ACC T/20 Cup due to start in a couple of weeks at the magnificent Sheikh Zayed in Abu Dhabi, and the Sharjah Cricket Stadium in Dubai. The tournament which was originally intended to be a qualifier for the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou is now devoid of any substantial meaning as it was decided that countries should apply to participate directly with their Olympic Associations. It is, however, a wonderful opportunity for many of these teams to compete in a tournament of reasonably high quality (in the non-test cricket scenario) on international standard turf wickets. For some of the more established sides – Hong Kong, Oman, Singapore, UAE, Nepal – it provides perfect opportunity to test out new talent, toughen up promising youngsters, and test themselves under the rigours of T/20 cricket ahead of a busy 2010 highlighted by the U-19 World Cup, the ACC Elite Cup, the World Cricket League, the 2010 T/20 World Cup Qualifiers and the 2010 Asian Games.

Twelve teams have confirmed their participation with Maldives, Bhutan, and Thailand being the notable omissions. One fails to see why these countries have refused to send teams.

Part 1 of this preview is a short analysis of Group A, which consists of upcoming giants and first seeds Afghanistan, perennial challengers the UAE, a confident Singapore side fresh from an impressive unbeaten run in WCL Division 6, ACC Trophy Champions Hong Kong, an unpredictable Saudi Arabian outfit, and newcomers China.

Afghanistan

On the back of consistently awe inspiring performances in the World Cricket League and an exceptional showing in its recent tours of Zimbabwe, and the Netherlands as an ODI country, Afghanistan have got to be overwhelming favourites for the trophy. Having played with Hamid Hassan, I am quite aware of the destructive capabilities of his bowling. Their batting, too has matured impressively especially with blossoming of opener Noor Ali, and Mohammad Shezhad. They bring with them talent, lots of experience, and most importantly a do or die attititude towards winning. While their first match against China could be one of the most one-sided in international cricket history, their second against Singapore should be an intriguing prospects and one that indicates the side’s strength and quality.

Key Players: Hamid Hassan, Nowroz Mangal (captain), Noor Ali, Mohammed Shezhad
X-Factor: the pace and fire of Hamid Hassan
Prediction in Group Stages: 1st
Overall Prediction: 1st

UAE

If there’s one side in the tournament capable of uprooting the Afghan challenge, its the UAE, however despite the presence of world class facilities, recent performances have been below par, and much has been said about the country’s continued reliance on Pakistani and Indian expats to bring home the goods. While they haven’t officially named their side yet, presumably, much will depend on the class of veteran Khurram Khan, the experience of two other stalwarts in Arshad Ali and Saqib Ali. Amjad Javed is known for his big hitting and could be a headache for opposition sides opening the batting, and bowling his skiddy medium pacers. Whoever is picked in the squad, coach Colin Wells will be hoping his boys can turn the tables and restamp their authority on the Asian region.

Key Players: Khurram Khan (if playing), Saqib Ali, Amjad Javed, Zahid Shah, Fayyaz Ahmed
X-Factor: the success of their spinners in backing up their dependable top six.
Group Prediction: I do not see them beating Afghanistan. Let me make a big call here by saying I think Hong Kong and Singapore have a one up on them at this stage. 4th
Overall Prediction: 7th.

Singapore

Singapore are seeded 3rd in a tough group, but going by their recent performances they will be a handful for any team in the competition. Encouraged by the well-oiled organizational engines, and professionalism of the Singapore Cricket Association, a recent association with Trever Chappell, and their unblemished record in the recent World Cricket League Division 6 Tournament, they will be brimming with self-confidence and ambition: an ambition to no doubt lay their hands on the trophy. Buddhika Mendis was fantastic for them with a number of fifties and a hundred in the recent WCL tournament, while there were handy contributions Munish Arora, Chetan Suryawanshi, Pramodh Raja, and Dharmichand Mulewa as well. A repeat of their WCL Division 5 victory against Afghanistan could definitely see them sneak into the semi-finals, and from there on anything is possible.

Key Players: Buddhika Mendis, Dharmichand Mulewa, Saad Janjua, Chetan Suryawanshi
X-Factor: the big hitting of Sagar Kulkarni (who has scored a 200 in a domestic game), and Christopher Janik
Group Prediction: They will be competitive but will struggle in a group that includes Afghanistan and Hong Kong. 3rd.
Overall Prediction: 5th

Hong Kong

Hong Kong have definitely emerged as one of the top competitors in the Asian region over the last three or four years. They are coming into this tournament with the tags of ACC Trophy Champions, and ACC U-19 Cup Champions (they’ve also qualified for the U-19 World Cup). That said, the abrupt departure of former England ODI player Aftab Habib as coach, and the decision to send no less than eight U-19 players to this tournament to give them more exposure before New Zealand, could hurt them.

Nevertheless, they will still be very difficult to beat with players such as the Ahmed brothers, Najeeb Amar who scored a hundred in the ACC Trophy final against UAE, and Hussain Butt, in their ranks. Two difficult games against Afghanistan and UAE in the first three days will decide their fate.

Key Players: Nadeem Ahmed, Hussain Butt, Najeeb Amar, Moner Ahmed
X-Factor: If Irfan Ahmed gets going with the bat or ball, things will become alot easier for the dragons.
Group Prediction: 2nd behind Afghanistan
Overall Prediction: Finalists

Saudi Arabia

Much like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia are somewhat of an enigma. Scintillating victories against the likes of UAE, have been accompanied by ordinary losses against teams like Malaysia in the last three years. A key concern in the past has been players’ fitness over a period of more than seven days, and if the men in green can cope with the rigours and intensity of six games in the space of eight days, they could be dangerous. In all reality though, they cannot possibly be a match for any of the other sides in the group bar China. However, cricket is a funny game and we just have to wait and see.

Key Players: Suhrab Kilsingatakam is one name in the squad that has stood out over the past two or three ACC tournaments.
X-Factor: The flat decks and a lightning outfields outfields of Abu Dhabi and Dubai will suit their explosive style of batting.
Group Prediction: 5th
Overall Prediction: 10th

China

This tournament will be quite the learning curve for a Chinese team that is being quite keenly pushed for accelerated growth and development by the ACC and ICC. The Chinese’ only previous exposure to the rigours of men’s international cricket has seen team struggle considerably against teams like Thailand, the Maldives, and Iran, and tournament will in all likelihood see them struggle somewhere. Coach Rashid Khan, and everyone in the international cricket community will be happy to see some semblance of improvement in the team’s results over the course of the tournament. In all likelihood, however, they will be cannon fodder. I shudder to think of what will happen to them at the Asian Games next year.

Key Players: Unknown
X-Factor: Nothing I can think of. The off-chance of rain will definitely work in their favor.
Group Prediction: 6th
Overall Prediction: Last (12th)

Categories: Cricket Development

Thailand’s Women – Pioneering Success

October 13, 2009 2 comments

The profile of women’s cricket on a global scale has risen considerably over the last few years. We’ve seen increased coverage of the game on television characterized by the widespread broadcast of the recent World Cup in Australia. Sponsorship levels have gone up and many more countries are professionalizing their domestic set-ups. Regional bodies such as the European Cricket Council (ECC), the Africa Cricket Association (ACA), and the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) have also been pulling their weight and organizing more tournaments, both junior and senior for their region’s women. Many countries have been taking advantage of these developments, and one of these is Thailand.

The country has traditionally produced able, yet unspectacular men’s teams and never really challenged the top rung of ACC nations such as UAE, Afghanistan, Hong Kong, and Nepal in the men’s game. On the back of a 3rd place finish at the inaugural ACC U-19 Cup in 2008, and a runners-up finish (they lost in the finals by 4 runs to Hong Kong and beat Nepal, Singapore, Qatar, Bhutan, Iran on the way) at the ACC Women’s 20/20 Asian Games Qualifying Tournament, Thailand’s women are slowly developing a name for themselves.

An 100% ethnic Thai squad made up of former national baseball, basketball, and volleyball players, all natural athletes, a school cricket program for women in three provinces, and the recent introduction of cricket into the annual National (Makhamwan) Games, and the ASEAN University Games are all indications of a bright future for the country’s female cricketers. To top it all off, the girls have sealed qualification to the Asian Games Women’s Cricket Competition in Guangzhou next year where they will compete against four test-playing countries, 2 other qualifiers (Nepal, Hong Kong), and hosts China. This will be the country’s first cricketing soujourn at this level and it is hoped that this will generate interest for the sport amongst the general public, and ring in the sponsors. For this to have long term effects, the embarrassment of one-sided thrashings by the test nations needs to be avoided and to make sure this happens, the country will have to train extensively for the tournament, and expose itself to quality competition (in the form of series against Hong Kong, Bangladesh or other leading Associates such as PNG, and Ireland) on a regular basis

It is hoped the success of the women’s sides will rub onto the men sooner or later, and that they will start to produce cricketers capable of leading the country to the higher echelons of ACC competition, and into the World Cricket League in the near future. In wake of the women’s success on the regional stage, all that’s need is some clear strategic planning, and the development of an ethnic player base and appropriate domestic development and competition structures for the men to do the same. Thailand has the population, the facilities, and the government support to take Asian Cricket by storm.

PS: A recent profile on the Asian Cricket Council Website (http://www.asiancricket.org/h_1009_thaiwomen.cfm) documents their development and success in detail.

Categories: Cricket Development

Mozambique, Bahamas in WCL Division 5?

May 15, 2007 16 comments

I’m going to cut straight to the chase. Why are Mozambique and Bahamas participating in WCL Division 5, when there are at at least 20 countries who are more developed and have stronger national teams than them, who arent?

 I say to hell with this policy of equal representation of all the continents at these events. Positions must be earned and Mozambique(who have played just one international tourney) and the Bahamas certainly haven’t earned them in my books.

Malaysia as we all know aren’t in the the WCL.

Qatar who beat the Cayman Islands, Zambia, and Fiji in 2005 aren’t in the WCL.

 Bahrain(Who won the Middle East Cup beating Afghanistan, Kuwait etc, and teams like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia), Kuwait (who beat Italy in 2005, and tied with Hong Kong in 2006, Malaysia in 2004 etc), Guernsey (who gave Namibia, Bermuda etc a fight when they toured and were impressive in the European Tournament last year), Israel, Gibraltar, France, Maldives, Thailand all of whom have proven national teams that have won tournaments or competed successfully in international events, and are established associate or affiliate members aren’t part of the WCL. Well instead our genius ICC men give the spots  to two nations who haven’t achieved much by way of national team success….sketchy.

 I say to hell with this policy of equal representation for all the continents at these events and lets follow the system FIFA uses for the soccer World Cup. Positions must be earned, and more positions must be given to continents with more depth and quality (Asia and Europe for Cricket)

 Mozambique(who have played just one international tourney) and the Bahamas certainly haven’t earned these positions in my books.

 I think my point will be rightly proven when we see these teams in action against USA, Singapore, Jersey, Afghanistan and Nepal!

Categories: Cricket Development

News: Malaysia given a rude awakening

February 8, 2007 4 comments

The U-19 teams of England, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia have been contesting an U-19 Tri Series Competition for the past couple of weeks in KL, as you all might know.

 Both England and Sri Lanka look quite evenly matched having played 3 or 4 very close games between. The expected letdown ofcourse has come from Malaysia. They have conceded an average of about 290 runs when fielding first and have scored an average of 135 runs when batting first. They even selected 3 National Team players at the last minute to bolster the team for the first couple of matches.

Obviously, as it is the first time this side with an average age of just above 17 is playing against test opposition, not too much was expected of them in the first place, and I might add, that they actually have done quite well to get both England and Sri Lanka all out on occasions, and have also done well to bat out 50 overs in some of their matches. There’s just about year left before the U-19 World Cup takes place in Feb/March next year, and the Malaysians have quite a bit of time to iron things out before then.

I would certainly like to see them playing Nepal and some of the other stronger asian Associates alot more over this year as it’ll give everyone that exposure that is so desperately craved in the Associate world…

For now though..their next task..and it certainly is a daunting one indeed..is the prospect of facing India next week..

Categories: Cricket Development