Action from one of the ACC Women’s Development Squad games at the Andhra Pradesh Women’s Cricket Academy at the start of August

Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka remain overwhelming favourites for gold and silver at the women’s cricket event at the Incheon Asian Games. The bronze medal is something that is a realistic target for anyone of China, Hong Kong, Japan, Nepal and Thailand. “Once you’re in the knock-out stage in T20 one short passage of play can decide a match, and given the rate of improvement of the top ACC countries, they cannot be underestimated,” says ACC Development Officer Aminul Islam.

Hong Kong, China’s women have been getting match-practise in Guangzhou (four years after the 2010 Asian Games “still a good wicket with an excellent outfield,” says coach Charlie Burke) and are next on their way to Sri Lanka to play four Twenty20s against “some very good local opposition”. The ‘Red Dragons’ have been training six times a week through the summer – two gym sessions, four skill sessions – and are shaping up to be a strong side. “There have been times in the past over the longer format when we’ve been four or five overs short of a win but I think the short game suits us better.”

China’s women and the Hong Kong Cricket Club before a fixture at Lord’s in July 2014

Hong Kong, China are in the same group as China, who they play first – a crucial game for both sides – and Thailand, current ACC champions are themselves training hard in the run-up to Incheon. The national squad are in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh for two weeks under the supervision of the local women’s coaches and national coach Vidyut Jaisimha and ACC Development Officer Venkatapathi Raju. Five of them have also been at Guntur since the start of August, along with two of the Nepal women. Nepal’s women remain capable of overturning any of the other Associates. China’s women toured England in June and July and played nine matches, of which they won eight.

A coaching session at Kinrara for Malaysia’s women

Malaysia and South Korea cannot be discounted. Malaysia have been preparing for the Asian Games with matches against Singapore in the inaugural Saudari Cup as well as with regular sessions with coach Dinesh Muthuraman and national coach Bilal Asad for the past three months. They have been playing against the U-19 boys too, “losing some close games. The boys definitely do not like getting out to the girls!” says coach Dinesh. Hosts South Korea, former baseball players and softball players in the main - have been under the tutelage of former Pakistan and Bangladesh fielding coach (and Great Britain baseballer) Julien Fountain since the start of the year.

The Asian Test-playing nations are the favourites for the podium but given that their first matches as seeds in the Asian Games will be against teams who will have built up familiarity with the conditions and some momentum, upsets are possible. Bronze is a realistic goal for any of the Associates and China. “The amount of support a medallist receives from their National Sports Authority after a successful campaign is very significant,” says ACC Chief Executive Syed Ashraful Huq, “for one of the non-Test playing nations’ women to win a medal in Incheon will boost women’s cricket tremendously in their countries.”

Incheon Asian Games 2014 Cricket

Filed August 29th, 2014