ACC U-19 Challenge Cup 2009: PREVIEW

ACC U-19 CHALLENGE 2009: PREVIEW

Kuwait are favourites to lift the trophy, but they won’t have it easy. Bahrain, the Maldives and Thailand will give the Gulf side some stiff competition. Thailand and Maldives have home-grown cricketers whose futures lie in playing for their country and have come up to this level as the result of some well-managed development programs in their respective countries.

The Maldives have a number of players who’ve played in Chiang Mai before and who have impressed – Mihusan Hamid (Best All-Rounder in the 2008 ACC U-19 Challenge) among them and their combination of hard-hitters, fast bowlers and occasional spinners may just have enough quality bits and pieces to come through strongly at the business end of the competition. They’ve never quite been able to get all parts functioning simultaneously before and have been beaten by teams more powerful and more hungry for success. But if they do indeed get to the Final on December 18 at the Prem Oval, it will represent their emergence into the Elite level of ACC countries and mark a significant development in their cricket.

There are nine ethnic Thais in the home side’s squad – cricketers who five years ago had never touched bat or ball. That they should be good enough to beat out the incumbent south Asian-descended cricketers of Thailand is not only creditable for them but creditable for a development program instigated this century by the Cricket Association of Thailand, which has seen cricket spread far and wide across the kingdom. There are more cricketers playing in more places in Thailand than ever before. The women have already impressed at ACC level, the men are sure to follow.

Brunei and Myanmar are not just there to make up the numbers, they have some cricketers of flair who are desperate to impress and may spring a few surprises. China, having had a taste of Elite level cricket in the recently concluded ACC Twenty20 Cup, will have had their U-19 cricketers who play in this event, come through with some battle-hardened match-skills. Developing cricket in China is a test of coaching programs, is a test of China’s sporting system and is a test of their cricketers. Some of this U-19 batch undoubtedly have the aptitude. It’s now a question of whether they have the attitude to compete with the other teams in the pool who look upon ACC tournaments as a chance to make their mark in their country and the continent.

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