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South Korea want to ensure their national team is competitive before playing in regional East Asia-Pacific tournaments, a Korea Cricket Association official told Cricinfo this week.
As eight national teams prepare to descend on Apia, Samoa for the East Asia-Pacific Trophy starting this Thursday, Korea Cricket Association secretary Daami Cagney said the next tournament in 2011 is a more feasible target. "Ideally we would like to play a team in the EA-P tournaments, but realistically, there are probably only five or six ethnically Korean players who would be up to the standard, which is why we have re-focused more on developing domestic cricket," Cagney said.
He predicted South Korea's introduction to regional events was not far away, as a follow-on from tours to Japan, and possibly India against local clubs or universities. "This way, we can start to build experience and confidence in the players. Also, we are trying to expand the domestic player base, which can create more competition for places in the squad. This, of course, takes time. Going by the past two years, I would estimate that in another two years, there should be a national team that is capable and ready to be competitive."
Of South Korea's 150 registered players, Cagney estimates about a fifth of those are ethnic Koreans. "We have 15-20 in one team [Sung Kyun Kwan University which has the world's only credited tertiary cricket course] and another 15-20 throughout other teams."
The course generates new recruits each year, and Cagney said the KCA would like to build on it, but it is not easy. "We are hoping to expand, but in a nation whose culture places education far, far above any other side hobbies, persuading universities to get involved has proven to be a challenge."
As a graduate of the course Hee-Yoon Yang is no longer eligible for the SKKU team, so this year he formed his own side, the Pacific Storm, consisting mainly of fellow Koreans, and some expats and entered it in the 10-team Korean league. Hee-Yoon last year collected his ICC Level 1 Coaching Certificate and is on the KCA Committee. Like most Koreans, in a country where baseball is more popular than football, Hee-Yoon has a strong throwing arm. "Hee-Yoon has one of the hardest and straightest throws in the game," Cagney enthused.
The Koreans' baseball background is both a help and a hinderance, according to Cagney. "On one hand, field-throwing is amazing! Not too many doubles are run if the ball gets hit to a Korean. For the less experienced players, baseball swings have to be ironed out of the cricket strokes when batting, and the bowling action needs to be scrutinised to make sure there are no 'chucks'. For the most part, the coaches are doing their job well," Cagney said.
The SKK course is not the only source of new players as the KCA has been running coaching courses at selected schools and sports camps during the summer break. "All feedback has been positive, and there is growing interest for further sessions in the future," Cagney said.
While the region's other national teams are doing battle in Samoa, the KCA is holding a Sixes tournament next weekend involving teams from all over South Korea. "There are now pockets of cricket communities in the more regional areas (Ulsan City, Daejeon and Gojae Island) with whom we will be liaising in the future."
The KCA league finals will then be played, where Sri Lanka, unbeaten in Group A, plays runner-up in Group B, Hadri Star, comprising Pakistani expats, and the winner of Group B, Lions (mainly Indians) plays Gladiators (mostly Pakistanis).
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