Sonu Khadka the standard-bearer

Having taken on Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the recent ACC Women’s Twenty20 Asia Cup, the region’s women have a chance to qualify for the ICC Women’s World Twenty20. A berth in the Qualifier for the 2014 World Cup is reserved for the winner of this year’s ACC Women’s Championship. Three teams have the strongest chance. Three teams headed by Nepal.

Three-times winners at U-19 ACC level, with a fair showing at senior level too over the same period, Nepal have the best chance purely because their squad seems to have arrived at the blend of youth and experience which coaches so treasure. Three captains are in the squad, the veteran Nary Thapa, her successor Neera Rajopadhyay and now the incumbent Rubina Chhetry, who’s come up from the U-19 captaincy. Backed up by some dogged and gutsy cricketers and the feistiness of Sonu Khadka and Mamta Thapa, Nepal are marginal favourites in Thailand. But the home team cannot be discounted. Strong in bowling, excellent in fielding, with the only question-mark their ability to hit through and over the infield Thailand are a team that can beat anybody, and have done so, over Nepal, in their last ACC Women’s Championship encounter.

Thailand’s captain Sonnarin Tippoch

Thailand’s rivalry with China, forged in the intense encounter at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, has been brewing fiercely and their contest on January 28 will most likely settle who finishes top of Group B and thus avoid Group A’s Nepal in the knock-out semi-final. China themselves are a team of wicket-taking bowlers, with pace and spin in abundance. The performances of all-rounders Yu Miao and Wang Meng are likely to decide several matches and this just may be the tournament when they reach their peak. Theirs was a narrow-loss in the last ACC Women’s Twenty20 Final to Hong Kong, but that Hong Kong isn’t quite the Hong Kong of this year, as the SAR is currently in a rebuilding phase.

Dechen Wangmo kneels in victory after winning another match for Bhutan

Bhutan are dark horses; heavily reliant on Dechen Wangmo of the rasping cover-drive, if their bowlers and fielders play to their best and don’t give away the wides that turn their stoic coach Damber Singh Gurung’s hairs grey and his fingers to tobacco, they are not only potential semi-finalists but finalists too.

The other eight teams (Afghanistan was a late withdrawal) have players of flair and prowess and Iran, playing in a women’s event for the first time since 2009 are likely to impress. The teams that bowl the fewest wides invariably win.

Much to play for, much good cricket to come, a place in the ICC women’s World Cup Qualifier in Ireland in August for the winning team waits.

2013 ACC Women’s Championship Schedule

Filed January 22nd, 2013