The Malaysian city of Johor is all geared up to host the Asian Cricket Council's women's tournament, which begins tomorrow with eight countries including the hosts participating. The week-long tournament will see sides playing 30-over matches at the Johor Cricket Academy in Mutiara Rini in Skudai and the Temengong Ibrahim Teachers' College.
The squads have already embarked on what, for many, will be their first tournament at this level. The UAE team left for Malaysia on Sunday, a day after a farewell organised by their board the previous day at the Sharjah cricket stadium. Smitha Harikrishna, the former India player and current UAE coach, said, "There is a bit of pressure as it is the team's maiden appearance in an international event. However, the players are confident and they can gain a lot from this experience."
"We picked a team that can sustain the pressures of nearly four hours play. Some of the players have played basketball and rugby and hence are agile."
The team captain is 13-year-old Natasha Michael. "The selectors picked the team with an eye for the future", Harikrishna said about her. "Natasha is the most experienced among the youngsters. She has an excellent brain and has toughened herself by playing with boys. We are confident she can guide the team."
The Nepal team left on Sunday night, with Nary Thapa, the captain, excited about the side's first international cricket event. "This is a historic tour and it will be more memorable if we return victorious."
LB Chhetri, the team's manager and a former men's national team captain, sounded confident as well. "We are heading there with hopes of returning victorious. All the teams are rookies so the event is wide open and we believe we have a chance."
Bangladesh and Thailand have already begun their preparations, with Bangladesh beating Thailand convincingly in two practice matches at Bangkok.
Favourites Hong Kong, China and Singapore are the other teams taking part in the tournament.
Aziz Kaprawi, the Johor state youth and sports executive councillor, said Johor was "proud to be he hosts of the first international women's cricket tournament in Asia" and said the tournament would give a boost to tourism.