Bangladesh, golden in Guangzhou, November 2010

Barring the absence of captain Mushfiqur Rahim who is getting married during the Incheon Asian Games, Bangladesh are sending close to their strongest possible side in defence of their gold medal from the previous event in Guangzhou. The squad have been match-hardened by a tour of the West Indies and will be in peak condition for Korea. As will everyone else. "A gold medal is something to treasure for one's whole life, it's an achievement for the whole country," says ACC Development Officer Aminul Islam.

Sri Lanka, captained by Lahiru Thirimanne, are the other Test nation competing in the event and are sending a squad composed of those who have shone in this season’s domestic Twenty20 competitions. Aspirants to a medal Hong Kong, China, vanquishers of Bangladesh at Chittagong in the last World T20, have been touring Sri Lanka in preparation for Incheon. “We’re playing two games against Hobart Hurricanes who are warming up for the Champions League T20 and have three other T20s against the local strong sides,” says coach Charlie Burke. Maldives have been hosting their own seven team ‘T20 Blast’ domestic competition and China have been training in a camp at Shenyang since June under coaches Rashid Khan and Monjurul Islam.

Action from the China v Malaysia game in Guangzhou

Nepal have been training for the first time this summer as a team since the return of national coach Pubudu Dassanayake at the start of September and can still be fancied to repeat their successes over Afghanistan and Hong Kong in the World T20 should they meet in the quarters and semis at Incheon. Malaysia have been training as never before, with a fitness coach and video analyst and a regulated training program that is gearing the national team up for the kind of competition they haven’t had since the 1980s when they would regularly take on Bangladesh.

Fahad and Mahmoud Bastaki, an almost unprecedented case of son and father in the same national side

Most remarkably, and most commendably too, Kuwait are fielding a team of Arab cricketers at the Asian Games. “With the Olympic Council of Asia being headquartered in Kuwait and Kuwait being such an active cricketing country we felt it right and fitting that Kuwait, as led by my old playing partner Mahmoud Bastaki, should field a team at the Asian Games,” says Kuwait Cricket Director General Asad Baig. Mahmoud Bastaki learnt his cricket while studying in India and his passion encouraged his brothers, nephew and son to play the game too. Kuwait recently spent 10 days in Malaysia playing matches against local sides under coach Tahir Khan, winning their last game before flying back home. Their very presence is a fillip to cricket but Korea, host nation and trained under Julien Fountain, former Pakistan and Bangladesh fielding coach, could spring the most potent surprises.

Afghanistan, silver medallists last time following that epic final against Bangladesh in Guangzhou, are sending an experimental side, with the leading players on assignment in Perth for an ICC High Performance Program (along with UAE, Ireland and Scotland) in preparation for World Cup 2015. Mohammad Nabi still leads and all-rounder Sami Shenwari is there but the rest are youngsters trying to break into the national team.

Much to play for, the Olympic spirit and a nation’s sporting legacy to be burnished. Gold, silver and bronze are up for grabs, with plenty of contenders for the podium.

Asian Games Schedule

Filed September 11th, 2014