Sports teams are referred to by all sorts of names - the Proteas, the Black Caps, the Wallabies, the All Blacks, the Lions, the Tigers. But what sort of sport do you think Colonel Gerard's Angels play? A self-defence sport like karate, perhaps?
Not these angels - they are Malaysia's national cricketers and will be playing at the Asian Cricket Council's (ACC) women's tournament next week. They take their name from Colonel Gerard Denis Singam of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), who combines his military day job with his interest in cricket by being the chairman of both the Armed Forces Cricket and the Competitions Committee of the Malaysian Cricket Association (MCA).
Malaysia are truly the minnows of women's cricket with only one international match under their belt - a friendly against Singapore in May 2006 that they won by 58 runs at Johar Baru. But when they host the ACC tournament from July 11 to 18 they will be up against teams with similar playing experience. Hong Kong and China played their first international match against each other in June, though Hong Kong did tour Pakistan in September last year. Bangladesh, Nepal, UAE, and Thailand are also limited in their exposure to competitive cricket and that makes the tournament wide open right from the start.
However, the Malaysian women are not easing up on their practice and fitness regime. Most of the national players come from the armed forces and thus the sobriquet, Colonel Gerard's Angels. "We have a long way to go," Gerard was quoted as saying by the MCA website.
"In the friendly matches against Air India and Singapore last year, they [the Malaysian players] got hit all over," Gerard said. "I honestly thought then that I will never see these players again. But I was wrong. They have never looked back and have been training very hard."
Gerard, considered a pioneer for women's cricket in the country, first suggested the idea of an Armed Forces team after the formation of the Air Force squad in 2003. In April 2006 the national team was set up with most of the players picked from the Armed Forces squad.
Most women cricketers around the world are amateurs who work to be able to play the game. This means they get to train only around the time of a tournament. Colonel Gerard's Angels have no such problem. For two weeks every month the players train at the RMAF Base at Sungai Besi.
The training regime starts with a jog at 6am everyday, followed by breakfast, and then cricket practice at the Bellamy ground for the rest of the morning. By 2.30pm they hit the gym where they do three sets of 20 push-ups and side sit-ups. Boot camps, still a novelty in men's cricket, are not so extraordinary for women, it seems.
The ACC tournament will give these 'angels' a chance to convert the hard work into success and more importantly take a break from the matters of national defence to play some cricket.