Chan Sau Har, who has taken a hat-trick against China, was only 12 when she made her debut for Hong Kong © HKCA
When non-regular countries play cricket, the stress needs to be on development and not so much on the results. So starting July 11, when Malaysia host and play against Hong Kong, China, Nepal, Thailand, UAE, Bangladesh, and Singapore in the Asian Cricket Council's women's tournament, the teams will be looking to gain valuable experience and play fighting cricket.

The sides start on an equal footing: mostly because few have played much international cricket. UAE, Nepal, and Thailand haven't played any. While Malaysia was set up last year, UAE managed to put together a side just a few days before the start of the tournament and Hong Kong are considered among the favourites simply because they have more playing experience than the rest, having toured Pakistan last September and having beaten China twice recently.

Most have an interesting story of how they got to playing international cricket.

The hosts, Malaysia, are mostly from the armed forces and have Colonel Gerard Denis Singam of the Royal Malaysian Air Force to thank for their existence. Gerard first pushed for a women's cricket team in the Armed Forces in 2003 which is now nicknamed Colonel Gerard's Angels. Then last April, as Competitions chairman of the Malaysian Cricket Association, he succeeded in setting up the national team following which Malaysia played their solitary international match a when they beat Singapore by 58 runs in a friendly game at Johar Baru.

China had their first-ever international fixtures in June this year against Hong Kong on a home-and-away basis. China lost both the games, although reports suggest the game is more popular among Chinese girls than boys. The women's national championship has 19 teams this year as opposed to six last year when it was first launched and the Chinese Cricket Association has a ten-year plan to make the women's team internationally competitive.

Women's cricket in Hong Kong started off with an exhibition match in 2001 and by 2004 a league was formed which now has six sides playing in it. Hong Kong's tour of Pakistan was an eye-opener as they lost all five matches but since then things have improved. An excellent junior cricket programme ensures a steady crop of quality players into the national side.

Nepal's national team consists of a number of national-level athletes from other sports. Nary Thapa, the Nepal captain, is also the national badminton captain.
Nepal's national team consists of a number of national-level athletes from other sports. Nary Thapa, the Nepal captain, is also the national badminton captain. Keshari Chaudhary, another squad member, has broken national records in high jump and triple jump, while Madhu Thapa has played football for Nepal at the U-19 Asian Championship Qualifying Round.

The teams from UAE and Singapore are mostly filled with Indian expatriates and Singapore's Vritti Sethi will probably be the youngest player at the tournament at the age of 12. Hong Kong also has a child among the girls in 13-year old Chan Sau Har, who grabbed a hat-trick in Hong Kong's 117-run win over China last week.

So with a cricketing history so limited in its exposure the ACC's first-ever women's tournament will be remembered by the players for their first real brush with international cricket. The week-long affair will give them a chance to assess where exactly they are in the game as well as take a close look at their opposition, at least for the next few years.

Nishi Narayanan is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo