Cricket can’t catch a break on Earth’s largest continent. Now that the Asia Cup is over, the cricketing caravan moves to China, where the 19th Asian Games are being organised at Hangzhou from the 23rd of September to the 8th of October.
The matches (of both men and women) will be held in T20 format, and the ICC has reportedly given these matches international status.
However, China is an odd place for cricket to happen, right? Also, aren’t the dates clashing with the ICC Cricket World Cup that begins on the 5th of October?
Worry not because, at Cricket.com, we have got all your questions covered. Let us tell you what you can expect from the event.
Has Cricket ever been a part of the Asian Games before?
Short answer? Yes!
However, this is only the 3rd time this bat and ball game would be a part of the Asian Games, the previous two instances being 2010 (Guangzhou, China) and 2014 (Incheon, South Korea).
Also, do you know that in 2010, when Cricket became a part of the Asian Games for the first time, it was only the third time that cricket featured in a multi-sport event?
The first time that it happened was in the 1900 Olympics. The second instance was in the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where South Africa won the gold medal.
Has India been a part of the Asian Games Cricket?
No! This is the first time that the BCCI is sending an Indian contingent comprising both its senior men’s and women’s teams.
Earlier, the BCCI and even some other Asian Cricket boards were reluctant to send their best players to these games. But with the movement to include Cricket at the Olympics gaining momentum, the Asian Games felt like the right platform for the BCCI, which is keen to make Cricket an Olympic sport.
Is India sending full-strength sides?
Yes, and No!
While the senior women's side is full-strength, with Harmanpreet Kaur leading it, the senior men’s side will miss the big names as the Men’s ODI World Cup schedule clashes with the Asian Games.
Additionally, while the women’s team doesn’t have a full-time head coach, they’ll be coached by Hrishikesh Kanitkar, the interim head coach. Meanwhile, due to Rahul Dravid being busy with World Cup preparations, the head of NCA, VVS Laxman, will be the head coach of the Men’s team.
Who are the teams participating, and when are the matches starting?
The Men’s and Women’s competitions have different teams and schedules, so let’s go through them one by one -
The women’s T20 competition starts tomorrow, i.e. the 19th of September.
India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have direct entry into the quarterfinals based on their rankings, where they’ll face the four top sides from the group stages.
The schedule is very tight, as the Quarterfinals occur between the 20th and 22nd (India plays their first game on the 21st), the Semifinals on the 24th, and the Gold and Bronze Medal matches will be held on the 25th of September.
You can click here to get the full schedule of the women's competition
The Men’s competition will feature nine other teams, excluding India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. These nine teams are divided into three groups (A, B & C) of three teams each.
Group A includes Mongolia, Maldives and Nepal; Group B has Cambodia, Hong Kong and Japan; and Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand form Group C.
The Group stages begin on the 27th of September, and the knockouts on the 3rd of October, with the gold medal match scheduled on the 7th. India will play its first game in the quarter-finals on 3rd October.
Check the full schedule here
Where are the matches going to be held? Does China even have a cricket ground?
All the cricket matches will be held at the Pingfeng Campus Cricket field of the Zhejiang University of Technology in Hangzhou.
So yeah, China does have a cricket field!
Cricket China held the East Asia Cup in May at this venue, which was won by the Hong Kong women, who are also participating in this Asian Games.
The pictures available on the internet of the ground suggest that it is a picturesque ground with slightly short square boundaries.
What can this event mean for Cricket as a sport?
It is immensely significant for global cricket overall. Cricket being played regularly in the Asian games would mean it can claim to be a sport gaining popularity outside the Commonwealth nations. With the ICC pushing hard for it to be an Olympic sport, the success of the sport in the Asian Games would make the ICC’s job a tad bit easier.
Also, Cricket being part of prestigious multi-sport events like the Asian games would instigate governments to spend money to build cricket infrastructure and players in their country, improving the sport's health globally.
The current (political and economic) scenario in the ICC doesn’t help grow the game as much as it should; hence, if more pathways develop through events like this, the sport will benefit.
The Asian Games promises to be an exciting tournament as teams like Indonesia, Hongkong, Singapore, Mongolia, Nepal, Malaysia, etc. will participate. These teams hardly get to share the field with prominent Asian cricketing nations like India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. This will help grow the game and add some new (Asian) flavor!
You can watch the 19th Asian Games on Sony Sports Network/Sony Liv in India.