Afghanistan impress; China depress

Afghanistan beat Oman by 42 runs to win the Asian Cricket Council's Under-17 Challenge Cup in Bangkok, but the event was hardly an inspiring advertisement for the sport in general, and China's development programme in particular.

Once again, the contentious issue of under-age players reared its ugly head with Maldives and Iran thrown out for breaching widely flagged regulations. Given the expulsion of eight teams in the ACC's Under-15 tournament less than a year ago, either there is continuing ignorance about the rules or teams are deliberately looking to flout them. The net result of this was that China, thrashed in their group matches, progressed to the semi-finals.

Much has been made of China's potential, and there seems to be little that the ICC and ACC won't do to help them progress. In August, IS Bindra, the former BCCI chief, was appointed by the ICC to develop the game in China. While the talk of how far they have come in a short time is bullish to the extreme, the dismal performance of their U-17 side must have come as a jolt to their supporters within the two organisations.

In their first match, China bowled out the Maldives for 68 only to be blown away for 29 themselves. They followed that with a shocking performance against Thailand when they made 17. The bare statistics hide the fact that China, who only turned up with 12 players, took the field with nine after suffering three injuries.

That China still made the semi-finals as a result of the expulsions reduced the event to near farce. Oman cruised to 298 for 2, with hundreds from Avinash Shekar and Gaurav Honavar, and then dismissed China for 48. In the other semi, Afghanistan eased to a 151-run victory over Thailand.

Afghanistan, who had lost to Oman on the opening day, gained revenge with victory in the final, with both teams promoted to the ACC U-17 Elite competition. The third-place play-off only served to heap more humiliation on the Chinese as Thailand romped to a 205-run win over them.

As for China, serious questions have to be asked within both the ACC and ICC over why massive hype and substantial investment has not come close to being matched by on-field performances. While defeats can be excused, turning up with 12 players cannot.