Over the last decade the Asian Cricket Council had built up a prized reputation in developing cricket talent in many countries across Asia with a series of tournaments for players of all abilities at senior and age-group levels. It is pleasing to report that the ACC are returning to the forefront of cricket development in Asia with a new starting point.

Thailand is hosting the ACC U-16 Eastern Region Tournament with matches being played in the cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai from Monday 11th December. Players who take part in this competition will be given the opportunity to play competitive international cricket as they progress from under-16 to under-19 and senior levels.

This competition will see eight countries from the Eastern Region of Asia competing in two groups. Group A is staged in Bangkok with matches played at Terdthai Cricket Ground and Asian Institute of Technology, while Group B is staged in Chiang Mai with matches played at the David Buck Oval at Prem International School and at Royal Chiang Mai Golf Course.

Team Captains - Nepal, Thailand, Hong Kong and Myanmar

Nepal, Thailand, Hong Kong and Myanmar will play in Group A, while Malaysia, Singapore, China and Bhutan will play in Group B. There has been a new structure to age-group cricket introduced this year with the three-tier structure (Premier, Elite, Challenge) replaced with a regional structure with the Eastern Region Tournament being followed by the Western Region version.

Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore took part in the ACC U-16 Premier competition held in Malaysia in August 2014, while Hong Kong competed in the ACC U-16 Elite competition held in Qatar in October 2014. China and Bhutan last had a chance to play at under-16 level in the Challenge Cup held in Chiang Mai in 2012, while Myanmar U-16s last played back in 2010.

Team Captains - Singapore, China, Bhutan and Malaysia

Opportunities for the smaller Asian countries have been limited in recent years so it is a wonderful initiative to bring back competitions at U-16 and U-19 levels as well as for the senior teams. The competition gets underway on Monday 11th December with four matches that show how cricket’s message is still being spread across Asia.

In Chiang Mai, Malaysia face Singapore at Prem, China play Bhutan at Royals, while in Bangkok Thailand face Nepal at TCG and Hong Kong play Myanmar at AIT. Malaysia and Singapore are probably the strongest teams in Group B, while Nepal, Hong Kong and Thailand could be competing for honours in Group A, but the wonderful thing about this tournament is that it is the first step on the ladder for all teams so Myanmar, China and Bhutan also have a chance to progress and build for the future.

Another round of league matches follows on Tuesday 12th December and the last four first round matches take place on Thursday 14th December. All matches are 35 overs per innings with similar playing conditions to those used in One-Day International cricket. The top two sides in each group qualify for the semi-finals so all eight countries have a lot to play for.

The winners of Group A play the runners-up in Group B, while the winners of Group B face the runners-up in Group A in the semi-finals which are held on Saturday 16th December at TCG and AIT in Bangkok, while the final and third place play-off will bring the tournament to an end on Sunday 17th December.

A pathway to success has been mapped out for these boys by ACC, as has been shown by the wonderful example of Afghanistan. Their youngsters were playing in the ACC U-16 Challenge Cup held in Chiang Mai in 2012 yet five years later Afghanistan’s senior side is on the threshold of playing in its first Test match.

Written by Richard Lockwood
Filed December 9th, 2017