Five top ACC Associates and Oman - perhaps soon to be Associates themselves – are in Kuala Lumpur to play the first ACC Premier League. The tournament is a progression from the former ACC Trophy Elite which in itself was a development from the ACC Trophy. The growth and prowess of several countries in the past ten years has been such that there is a marked difference in ability between these top six and the rest. ACC Events Manager Sultan Rana says, "These countries go on the field knowing to expect that all their matches against the others will be competitive, there are no real weaker or stronger teams. It makes for better cricket, better competition, and a better allocation of time and resources."
The former single division ACC Trophy of 1996 to 2006, which evolved into the two division ACC Trophy Elite and Challenge of 2008 to 2012 is now a three division Premier, Elite and Challenge League competition. The six teams gathering in Kuala Lumpur are assured of five tough matches. And the watching world is assured of three One Day Internationals as, following their performances in the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League and World Cup Qualifiers Afghanistan, Hong Kong and UAE have ODI status. "ODI status is huge. Every time we play one – (Afghanistan have been playing them since 2009) - it means we have reached the highest level of limited overs cricket, we are at the same level of the greats of the past and present and get a chance of making history ourselves," says Afghanistan captain Mohammad Nabi who has played in all 31 of Afghanistan’s ODIs so far.
It also means a chance to meet the top nations on equal terms on the playing field. UAE have been there since World Cup 1996, but for Hong Kong this inaugural ACC Premier League sees their first match as an official ODI nation (they have had temporary ODI status in Asia Cup 2004 and Asia Cup 2008) in the tournament's opener. It is a status they have earnt on merit and means credibility, legitimacy and is a "huge positive and motivation" says coach Charlie Burke. "You look to these ODIs as proof of development and I just let the players know that each ball they play is going down in the record books for ever. ODIs are something that some very good players never get to play, it's a great chance and now with Hong Kong having beaten Bangladesh in the World Twenty20 a terrific opportunity to set a mark and build on.”
Malaysia – home advantage – increasingly adept and on the climb, again will be a match for anybody, and maybe Afghanistan shouldn’t have sent a side of relative youngsters. Oman aren’t the best in the field but have some canny spinners and on their day can bat anyone out of a game. They’ve been practicing on their own turf for some time now so will not spend their usual first week in acclimatization. Nepal's seasoned cricketers led by the charismatic Paras Khadka have been on an upward climb for some time now, and with their balanced attack and substantial game sense have the ability to beat anybody. UAE may lose to others but they have a habit of beating Afghanistan.
It’s anybody’s tournament before it even starts and that’s how it should be when evenly matched teams get together.
ACC Premier League Tournament Page
ACC Tournaments Streamlined
Filed April 30th, 2014