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Cricket taking firm roots in China - and how!

Till a year ago there were no players or coaches, but now the game is spreading fast. China gets $ 400,000!

india Updated: Sep 25, 2006 21:05 IST

Cricket is catching on in China. Till a year ago there were no players, umpires or coaches for the sport in the country, but now the game is spreading fast among students.

"Only a year ago we had no players, no umpires, and no coaches for the sport. It was nil at that moment, but now things have started to roll on," Chinese Cricket Association (CCA) deputy-director Cui Zhiqiang told Xinhua.

The CCA, which became a member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and Asian Cricket Council (ACC) in 2004, has spent a whole year to develop the sport in China. It started with a core base of players, umpires and coaches as its priority.

Cui said China already has 63 umpires and qualified coaches while the CCA has introduced cricket to 19 primary schools, 20 middle schools and more than 20 universities throughout the country with 6,416 students learning the game. Now 995 students have turned players.

And the competitions? The maiden national championship will be held in China this year, while competitions in under-13 and under-15 have taken place in the summer. A competition for universities is on and will last till November.

"We will select eligible players to take part in the under-15 ACC Cup to be held in Thailand at the end of the year," said Cui.

"The association has mapped out a short-term and long-term plan, and the international competitions will remain our focus. The ACC Cup for under-17 and under-19 in 2007 will be in our sight."

He optimistically predicted: "China will produce more teams and more players, coaches, and umpires - from quantity to quality."

The materials for the cricket skills and coaching course have also been translated and printed. Mandarin editions of the laws of cricket have been available in China.

The ICC and ACC cannot ignore China's progress. Officials of the two bodies visited its cricket venues and training courses in last five days.

"Since CCA became a member of ICC, the organisation has made great progress. We've been very pleased to hear that some plans are in place and some work has been carried out already," ICC CEO Malcolm Speed said here.

ICC will provide CCA $200,000 to add to a supporting amount from the ACC.

"Many countries have been playing cricket for 300 years, and China has only played for one year. But I think they should look at the work done by China," Speed said.

"We appreciate what they have done, they have just put cricket on the map of China."

But China, which is without the cricket tradition and much experience, has already looked forward to the great leap in the future.

Cui voiced this ambition when he said the CCA was hoping that by the end of 2007 China would have 30,000 players, 600 coaches, and 600 umpires.

The target for 2020 would be a striking figure of 150,000 players in China.

The association is also hoping that the sport can become part of the National Games set-up and receive more government funding.

The CCA chose only the best schools and universities to introduce the sport and cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou that have a strong economy and open-minded thinking to serve as staring points.

"They are just trial bases. If we can succeed there we would promote the sport to more places in China, like Shangdong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang," Cui said.

China's cricket development is linked to a large extent to the help from the ACC and the ICC.

The ACC has sent seven coaching delegations to China since 2005 in a bid to help fast-track China as a competitive cricketing nation.

"Developing a cricket culture takes time, but one thing we can be sure of is that China is now ready, willing and able to pace the way for cricket," said the ACC chief executive Syed Ashraful Huq.

He also promised more funds, facilities to Chinese cricket and a head coach to Chinese under-15 men's team.

"Their Olympic athletes impressed us all in Sydney and then Athens. They have emerged as champions in a very short space of time," Huq said.

"China have prepared a comprehensive plan to develop the game within the country. They have come to us, and the ACC will help them realise their vision."

But why cricket in China?

"There are 96 sports in the State Sports General Administration of China. But what makes cricket special is that it is a game of the physique, it is a game of the heart, and it is a game of the mind," said Zhang Xiaoning, director of the Munlti-ball Sports Administrative Center.

"It is a game for the individual within the team. It is truly a noble game that is perfectly suited to the Chinese people. It is being introduced in China at the perfect time."

--Xinhua

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