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From Obscurity to World Cup Qualification - The Journey of Thai Cricket

The Thailand women’s cricket team’s rise in a short span of time to become the first team from the country to qualify for a marquee ICC tournament (the Women’s T20 World Cup in 2020) is an inspiring tale of perseverance and dedication.

Cricketnext Staff |September 6, 2019, 1:35 PM IST
From Obscurity to World Cup Qualification - The Journey of Thai Cricket

The Thailand women’s cricket team’s rise in a short span of time to become the first team from the country to qualify for a marquee ICC tournament (the Women’s T20 World Cup in 2020) is an inspiring tale of perseverance and dedication.

Alongside Netherlands and Ireland, Thailand are the only team to have participated in every T20 World Cup qualifier since its first edition in 2013 and in their squad, have four bowlers who have the lowest T20I bowling average of all time.

What’s even more remarkable is that their captain, Sornnarin Tippoch, only started playing cricket at the age of 20, and was captain of the women’s national team a year later. Now the girl who was born in a family of farmers will captain her side at a World Cup next year.

“I started playing softball first then transitioned to cricket because the skills were quite similar,” Tippoch told the ICC. “Then cricket approached me to try to come and play cricket and I fell in love with the sport, it was very exciting, very engaging and also an opportunity to represent the country and take my sporting career further. From 2007 to now it’s been great.

“Maybe five years ago, nobody would really care about what we’d be doing but now it’s getting more coverage on social media, the world is taking recognition. It rubs off on other people. It’s about having the same end goal, working hard in what you believe in, trying to achieve it as a team. Everyone has that general focus on what we’re trying to do.”

Even though cricket was mainly played by expat communities initially, the CEO of the Cricket Association of Thailand, Mohideen Kader, has put in efforts to make sure the game reaches indigenous Thai communities and becomes popular among the local population as well. It was officially recognized as a sport by the Thai government in 2008, and by 2013, the team qualified for the first T20 World Cup qualifier. It finished fifth in a group of eight teams.

It was since the appointment of current head coach Harshal Pathak in 2018 that the team took its game to the next level. Under him, they went on a 17 match winning streak and finished at the top of their T20 World Cup qualifier group.

Speaking to the ICC, Pathak explained some of their training methods. “When I joined I didn’t have to find anybody, they were already there. They were talented, they had the ability to do what it takes to get to a higher level, it was just the fine tuning that we did. Of course we worked on some technical aspects which needed to be improved and more consistency.

“We have now gone in a correct direction with a correct purpose. It’s always a task-oriented practice that we do. We barely practice in the nets. We prefer to practice in the open-wicket scenario.

“For example, the opening pair goes to bat, they have a certain plan which they follow and a task to complete. It could be something related to a run-rate or if you’re chasing or setting a score, to reach there you need to have a certain type of batting on a certain pitch.

"Tactically they have become much more smarter and they have started reading the situations and the opposition and that is a big plus for me because tactics do matter a lot.”

During the qualifier, the Thai team quickly became fan favourites with their unique ways of engaging with the crowd. Their bow to all four corners of the ground to acknowledge the crowd has become a signature trait and with the smiles they play with on their faces, they became instantly likeable. And now they will be in the limelight at the biggest stage of them all, at the ICC T20 Women’s World Cup 2020.

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