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'They will be inspired' - Coach Harshal Pathak on Thailand's next generation of cricketers

Thinks his side's semi-final finish at the Women's Asia Cup will help grow the game back home; happy with the spirit shown after early defeats

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Naruemol Chaiwai was Thailand's top scorer in the tournament  •  Asian Cricket Council

Naruemol Chaiwai was Thailand's top scorer in the tournament  •  Asian Cricket Council

You couldn't fault the Thailand contingent for being excited despite their 74-run loss in the Asia Cup semi-final against India. There was hardly any buzz in the atmosphere at the Sylhet International Stadium, but Thailand's excitement was infectious. After the match, the two teams posed for a group photo, while some of Thailand's players sought out their Indian counterparts for selfies.
There were many reasons to be happy. Thailand didn't really make a fist of things on their big day, but restricting India to 148 for 6, and then batting out the 20 overs was a big step for them. For the 12th ranked T20I team in the world, the performance, according to coach Harshal Pathak, was a big deal.
He said the team's effort will have a dual effect on the game back home. The team won't be given a parade, but there will be a lot of appreciation among the few who follow the game. The bigger influence, though, will be on those who dream of playing for Thailand in the future.
"There will be more awareness among the public after the team does well. If you think about the focus group of new cricketers, obviously they will be inspired," Pathak said. "They are looking up to someone like [Naruemol] Chaiwai, Natthakan [Chantham] and Chanida [Sutthiruang]."
Pathak said that after a short break, he will speak to the team about this Asia Cup experience, and how they can grow from it. "We will really evaluate what we have done well, what we want to achieve and how we are going to go about it. We have faced a lot of high-quality bowlers in different situations. We have to understand how we can play dominating cricket."
After crushing defeats at the hands of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, Thailand shot back with a four-wicket win over Pakistan. This was followed by wins over UAE and Malaysia, putting them above Bangladesh on the points table. After Bangladesh, the defending champions,lost to Sri Lanka and had their last game rained out against UAE, despite being routed by India to end their round-robin stage Thailand could celebrate at their team hotel in Sylhet with a semi-final spot in the bag.
"I expected a little more at the start of the tournament. I was targeting going to the final. But I am very happy with the way the team bounced back after the two [early] losses," Pathak said. "They have shown character. Adjusted and adapted well.
"We had better intent today compared to the first game against India. We got back into the game in the last ten overs with the ball. We took control after they got off to a good start. The bowlers did well, and [the captain] put some really good field settings. We had very good plans today."
He said that his coaching method is also evolving according to the needs of the team. When he joined four years ago, Pathak had said he had to get into a lot of details when explaining things to the players. But now things are different.
"Cricket is not the main game in Thailand. In India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, cricket is a religion. You pick up the game by watching around you, and the knowledge base keeps growing as you go through the system. Coaches need to tell the players about plans or fine-tune the mindset.
"For a developing [cricket] country like Thailand, a coach has to go quite deep to explain things. At the start of my stint with Thailand, I used to go into a lot of details. Now I have confidence that they can do a lot of things on their own. Now we have to take it to the next level."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84