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Our women's team didn't get 'fair chance' to qualify for World Cup - Thailand board president

The ICC will discuss facilitating ODI status for certain Associates during its meetings in Dubai that start on Thursday

Thailand beat Full Members Zimbabwe and Bangladesh before the World Cup qualifying tournament was aborted  •  Getty Images

Thailand beat Full Members Zimbabwe and Bangladesh before the World Cup qualifying tournament was aborted  •  Getty Images

With their Women's World Cup dreams dashed after the qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe in November was abandoned midway because of the newly detected Omicron variant, dejected Thailand players cried.
Their batter Natthakan Chantham shared the pain through a social media post after the team was unable to progress to the 2022 Women's World Cup. The reason behind not qualifying was Thailand not having ODI status even though they had beaten Full Members Zimbabwe and Bangladesh before the qualifying event was aborted.
"The players were so disappointed," Cricket Association of Thailand president Ravi Sehgal told ESPNcricinfo. "We should have been given a fair chance to qualify. We couldn't qualify for the World Cup because we don't have an ODI ranking as we have never had ODI status.
"We have worked very hard to get our standard to this point with entirely ethnic Thai players. But we still need help."
Sehgal petitioned the ICC and board directors in December with an impassioned plea for Thailand to be granted ODI status. He didn't get his wish but the issue is broadly set to be discussed during ICC meetings that start in Dubai on Thursday.
The ICC is looking at facilitating ODI status for certain Associates wanting to pursue the 50-over format and provide them with additional funding, while re-examining World Cup qualification pathways for Associates. Currently, being a Full Member or qualifying for the ICC Women's Championship is the only way to get ODI status.
Last year the governing body awarded Test and ODI status for women's teams of Full Members, but Thailand don't have that because of the stunted growth of their men's team (although both Afghanistan's men's and women's team were given Full Member status despite there not being a functional Afghanistan Women team as such).
"We have worked very hard to get our standard to this point with entirely ethnic Thai players. But we still need help"
Ravi Sehgal, the Cricket Association of Thailand president
"Our men's development isn't at the mark of our women's, so we have focused on women who have done exceptionally well," Sehgal said. "The women's team will be more confident with more international matches, especially if they have opportunities to regularly play against the top ten countries."
Additionally, there was also brief confusion over which matches had ODI status. In September 2018, the ICC said for the purposes of simplification, all matches in tournaments - such as World Cup qualifiers - where some teams have ODI status and some don't will be considered ODIs.
Thailand and USA celebrated their ODI status during those qualifiers only for it to emerge later the qualifier matches that involved a non-ODI-status team were to be categorised as "other one-dayers".
"This issue is important because Associates who deserve ODI status should have it and I think in principle it should have widespread support," said Sumod Damodar, who is an Associate Member representative on the Chief Executives' Committee. "What happened to Thailand was disappointing. Did Thailand merit better treatment? Yes. They beat two Full Members. They should at least be given special dispensation to get ODI status."
Thailand, who memorably lit up the 2020 Women's T20 World Cup, were at the top of Pool B of the qualifiers when the event was called off as the Omicron variant spread through southern Africa leading to border closures and travel restrictions.
With the tournament unable to be rescheduled, the three highest-ranked teams in the ODI rankings progressed to the World Cup and the next two got a place in an expanded ten-team Women's Championship.
Without ODI status, Thailand missed out on both. Qualifying for the Women's Championship would have guaranteed more matches and more funding; instead, Thailand have not played since and aren't scheduled to return to the field until the Asian Games in September.
"We receive only a little bit of government funding," Sehgal said. "Our competitions are funded by local governments. We are low on local priority because there is little commercial value for cricket in Thailand.
"But we are now playing cricket in 23 of 70 provinces in Thailand. We are maybe the only country in the Associate world without a foreign player in our team and it started from scratch 12 years ago."
Thailand, whose women's team is ranked tenth in T20I rankings, has become a rousing symbol of genuine growth beyond the cricket heartland although concerns remain of their momentum being eroded without consistent fixtures and funding.
"Thailand is a great story for every Associate member and they provide an inspiration, especially for countries like Indonesia, Brazil and Germany who are growing," Aminul Islam, the former Bangladesh captain who is now the ICC's development manager for the Asia region, said. "They have had a good model, such as consistency of coaches and development programs, so the pillars are there for sustainable success.
"Thailand is proof that cricket is growing beyond British colonies and they are building a cricket culture. But they need to play more matches."
While it is unclear how things will play out during upcoming meetings in Dubai, and when coveted ODI status might become attainable, Thailand will turn their attention to qualifying for the 2023 Women's T20 World Cup.
"We will do what we can to keep going and get better through our own means," Sehgal said. "We can't stop this momentum now."

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth