Malaysia, the kings of south-east Asia
Welcome to the latest edition of Beyond The Test World, Wisden Cricinfo's regular round-up of news from cricket's outposts. This week, Malaysia receives a lift ahead of next month's Asian Cricket Council Trophy; why Nepal's coach, Roy Dias, wants to take his team home to Colombo; and how Hot Dogs became the rage in Shanghai cricket:
Malaysia rule in South East Asia
Malaysia have received a psychological boost ahead of next month's ACC Trophy in Singapore, by winning the Tuanku Ja'Afar Trophy, cricket's symbol of south-east Asian supremacy. They did it the hard way, rebounding from an opening-round defeat against the defending champions, Hong Kong, to gain revenge in the final by five wickets. Their Australian coach, David Bannister, on secondment from the Queensland Cricket Association, lauded his team: "They're talented athletes - several of them, including the captain Suresh Navaratnam and Sarath Jayawardena, are of Brisbane first-grade standard. All these guys need is more opportunities against quality opposition."
Bannister attributed the reversal of fortunes in the two key matches against Hong Kong to a similar switch in role-plays. "In the final, we did the simple things well, created pressure by bowling to a plan, kept breaking partnerships and controlled the momentum of the game. In the first match, they did this and we didn't."
Navaratnam, the player of the tournament, steered his team to victory with a fine 60 after Hong Kong had posted 138 in 48.2 overs. Jayawardena took 3 for 27 off 9.2 overs, including the former Ranji Trophy player, Rahul Sharma, to help precipitate the Hong Kong collapse. The hosts Singapore, coached by the former Test double-centurion, Brendon Kuruppu, finished third ahead of Nayan Mongia's Thailand, who were bowled out for under 100 in all three matches.
Nepal decamp to Sri Lanka
Nepal will complete their preparations for the ACC Trophy with a ten-day two-match visit to Sri Lanka, beginning on May 31. Their coach, Roy Dias, is keen to expose his batsmen to the comparatively bouncier wickets of his home town, Colombo, before the Nepalese squad heads to Singapore for the 15-nation tournament.
"The wickets here [in Kathmandu] don't offer much bounce and our guys aren't used to it," he said, "so I am going to get some of the Sri Lankan bowlers to have a go at them." Dias is also concerned by Nepal's easy first-round draw. "We play Bhutan and Iran, and I would have liked one tough game before the finals." Overall, however, Dias was pleased with the balance of his squad, pointing out that several of his batsmen could also turn their arms over.
Malaysia are already warming up in Colombo, with practice matches against a visiting Air India team, and local sides bolstered by Sri Lankans with first-grade experience. The finalists of the tournament will automatically qualify for next year's ICC Trophy in Ireland, while three more teams will take part in a qualifying tournament in Malaysia next February, to contest the right for the final spot.
The secret of Uganda's success
Rival captains rarely agree on the causes of an upset, but Namibia's Deon Kotze and Uganda's 23-year-old captain, Junior Kwehiba, are in unison as to the reasons for Uganda's shock victory in their recent Intercontinental Cup match in Windhoek.
"Uganda played to a plan - they kept it simple, they created pressure by bowling at the stumps and giving nothing away," said a rueful Kotze, Namibia's captain. "Our batsmen attacked inappropriately and got themselves out." Kwehiba unintentionally echoed Kotze's sentiments. "Our coach, Tom Tikolo, has been coaching us well, he knows our strengths and weaknesses and made sure we stuck to them."
Shanghai Hot Dogs
Shanghai has launched a four-team league, the first in its history. Van Hessen Hot Dogs have set the pace, while Pudong Dulwich CC are coming together as late challengers. The competition is so popular that two more teams are expected to join in 2005.
The Shanghai Dragons enjoyed a successful visit at the famous Chiang Mai Sixes, where they reached the Plate semi-finals. The Shanghai Allied Pickford Pearls women's team recently hosted their Hong Kong counterparts, although Hong Kong, which has its own ladies' league, was too strong for the locals who were playing their first outdoor game. Chinese cricket's big event, the Shanghai International Sixes, will be held between September 10 and 12.
The ICC president, Ehsan Mani, recently claimed that his organisation intends to reach 100 members next year, which is in no way wishful thinking. In July, the total will rise to 92 with the admission of the Isle of Man, China and Mexico, while there are more than 40 other countries where cricket has a permanent presence, including Myanmar, Yemen and the Seychelles, whose national associations have recently received visits from the ICC's regional development officer - a prerequisite for membership.
The Isle of Man's term as an affiliate member may, however, be brief. Tim Lamb, the chief executive of the ECB, was so impressed by a recent visit that he allegedly stated that promotion to associate membership status should happen within four years, subject to onfield performances.
This year's other applicants, China and Mexico, have unexpectedly long histories. Shanghai, Chinese cricket's modern-day epicentre, played in the interport series against Hong Kong in the 1800s, while cricket has been played in Mexico City since the formation of the Reforma CC in 1894. Reforma, Aztecs, MCCC and Greengates form the local league.
Nigeria still waiting for invitation
Nigerian officials are still wondering why its national team has not been invited to next week's West African Championships in Banjul, in The Gambia. Gambian cricket officials have confirmed the inclusion of Morocco, which is financed by Abdul Rahman Bukhatir, but have ignored communiques from the Nigerian Cricket Association, according to one of their officials, Olisa Eguawatu.
Morocco may be coached by the former Australian Test batsman, Gary Cosier, who oversees the development of Bukhatir's golf and cricket resort at Tangier. BTTW hopes to include a preview of the West African Championships in next week's edition.
Feeling left out? Would like to see your country featured here? Don't despair. Beyond The Test World seeks to cover cricket in as many non-Test countries as space will permit. Please e-mail Tony Munro at firstname.lastname@example.org with cricket news from your country. Keep an eye out, too, for an American Beyond The Test World special in the next few days, covering the United States regional selection trials.