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In the words of former ICC President Ehsan Mani, "Cricket cannot call itself a global game when one-fifth of the world's population is not aware of it." So the fact that China has started playing what is referred to there as "the global game" is a significant step forward for cricket.
The Asian Cricket Council and ICC consider China to be a special project and have allocated funds specifically to develop cricket in the vast country. It is sure to be money well invested because once China becomes an established cricketing nation, either as a venue, a participant or a breeding ground for future cricketers in the decades ahead, global revenues for cricket will increaseby 30-40 per cent, according to ACC Chief Executive Syed Ashraful Huq.
Former ICC Global Development Manager Matthew Kennedy said in 2006 that "developing cricket in China is a 20-year project". Six years on, coaches, umpires and, most importantly, player numbers in schools are rising dramatically
Non-professional sports in China (i.e. not table-tennis,badminton, football or basketball), however, face a major problem: children between the ages of 13 and 18 are compelled by their parents and schools to put their studies ahead of all other interests. No teenager in China plays sport for fun.
The China Cricket Association's first target was the creation of a men's and women's team for the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou. So the ACC Country Development Officer, the national coach and other local coaches completed a wide-ranging search for talent in 2008. Twenty-five schools in Beijing, Tianjin, Shenyang and Shanghai took part in this programme. Five hundred players were initially chosen after comprehensive skills training and game simulations and 289 were sent forward into specialised training programmes to create a core squad for the Asian Games.
The men played Pakistan in the quarter-finals while the women made a stunning start with victory in their first match against Malaysia and followed up with a win over Thailand before eventually finishing a highly creditable fourth.
The CCA's motto is "ming tien hui gen hao" ("a better tomorrow"). It has the desire, it seeks the knowledge, it wishes to repay investment and in turn make cricket its own. It's Chinese. It's possible.