|Thailand’s women have had plenty to celebrate this year|
Thailand’s women have come a long way in a short period of time, the result of planning, dedication and skill. Six years ago, not a single Thai female – and by that one means a native Thai – knew anything about cricket. A lady from Chiang Mai - Jeerawadee Duangchakham – qualified as a Level I Coach in 2004 and from her interest, a few other Thai girls came into the game.
Casually. For fun. For something to do.
Their talent was then given direction by the newly-formed Cricket Association of Thailand (CAT) and with the ICC giving more emphasis to women’s cricket from 2006, Thailand saw that “with women’s cricket CAT had a clean sheet to work with. CAT set about putting together a list of priorities, with a full ethnic side being at the top of the list, as this was an important issue with regards to the Sports Authority of Thailand,” writes CAT Chief Executive Mohideen Kader.
Men’s cricket in Thailand is currently a 70/30 expatriate game, after long being only played by expatriates. Women’s cricket in Thailand is 100% Thai. And they are winning more than 70% of their games. In the 2009 ACC Women’s Twenty20 they came within a whisker of upsetting favourites Hong Kong in the Final.
Thai cricket, on the women’s side is on the up.
|Thailand caused a big upset in beating Nepal in July 2009|
It’s all happened very quickly. “There are fewer sides in women’s cricket compared to the men, fewer countries, fewer age-groups so it is possible to make an impact more easily,” says ACC Development Manager Bandula Warnapura. Nepal have done well in recent years and along with Thailand are the teams who are most likely to vie with Hong Kong for top honours against the Test-playing countries of Asia.
Nepal and Hong Kong have taken cricket into the schools and have well-set domestic programs. The Cricket Association of Thailand’s development activity has been a little more dispersed across its vast territory but along with the school cricket leagues in the three regions of Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Petchabun. CAT has hit upon a formula of sending as many players as it can to intensive training camps prior to ACC tournaments, The national team is largely made up of university graduates who can devote the time they have before they must face the realities of life (job-hunting, earning a living) to a sport they enjoy so much.
|Thailand’s women, July 2007|
In 2007 Thailand’s women played their first tournament, the inaugural ACC Women’s Championship, and did enough to show that they had the attitude of potential champions if not, as yet, the aptitude. In 2008, they were third in the U-19 ACC Women’s Championship, beating Hong Kong twice. In 2009, they were a boundary away from winning the ACC Women’s Twenty20 Championship.
Thailand’s squad has remained largely consistent while new players – the opening bowler is a 13-year old from Chiang Mai – have come in; all have raised their game. The coaching, under Mohideen Kader and his son Tithi ‘Shan’ Kader along with a number of others (there are seven women coaches in Thailand) has been focused and committed to making Thailand’s women succeed at the highest possible level.
|The captain of Thailand’s women|
Thailand play smart, percentage cricket. None more so than their captain Sonnarin Tippoch. The one thing the equally well-trained Chinese players said to themselves after they were beaten by Thailand in the 2009 Twenty20 semi-final was that, “we need to be as tough as Thailand.”
“CATs mission statement can be simplified to promoting and facilitating the development of cricket in Thailand,” says the national coach. Success has given CAT the confidence to encourage more native cricketers in the schools of Thailand to adopt cricket in their curriculum and cricket centres have been established across the axes of the country, south to north, east to west, in Khon Khaen, Phuket, Petchabun, Chiang Mai, Chonburi, Bangkok and the latest addition being Khao Yai.
Thai girls and boys are flocking to the game. Right now the girls are ahead, no doubt the boys will do everything to catch them.
“We have received permission from the Olympic body of Thailand to field a team in the women’s event at the Asian Games,” says Mr. Kader, “by then, on that stage, we will really impress.”
Filed Oct 8th, 2009