CRICKET, widely considered as the world’s second most popular sport, continues to reach out to the Filipino audience with the staging of the International Cricket Council (ICC) World T20 East Asia Pacific qualifier scheduled Dec. 1-7 at the Emilio Aguinaldo College Friendship Oval in Dasmariñas, Cavite.
Although the Philippines had several encouraging results in previous international competitions, this is the first time that the county is hosting a major international cricket competition in the region.
“This is an exciting moment for Philippine cricket,’’said Filipino-Australian Jonathan Hill, who also serves as team captain of the Philippine team seeing action in the week-long competition.
“We have matured and grown together as a group over the last few years, and in fact, had some encouraging results in competition overseas. I think we’re ready to take the next step,” explained Hill, who appeared with Philippine Cricket Association General Manager Faisal Khan in yesterday’s Tabloid Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS) “Usapang Sports” at the National Press Club in Intramuros, Manila.
“We’ve trained long hard for this tournament because we really want to perform well in front of our home crowd,” added Hill, whose mother hails from Davao City.
Aside from Hill, the Philippines will rely heavily on the talented Australia-based Henry Tyler, a second grade top-order batsman from Melbourne, debutant Grant Russ, a swing bowler from Australia’s far north, and Daniel Smith, a first grade fast bowler and state representative from Sydney who also plays for Kent and Hampshire in England.
“I live for cricket. It’s what I’ve done all my life,” said Smith, who made his debut for the Philippines at an East Asia Pacific competition in Australia last year.
“Although cricket is not as popular as basketball in the country, I’d love to see Filipinos embrace our national team and come to the ground to support them,’’ said Khan, also the tournament director.
Khan said the PCA owes a debut of gratitude to EAC president Dr. Jose Paulo “for allowing PCA to convert a vast tract of land near the EAC campus in Cavite to a cricket venue for 10 years.”
Khan said the three other countries competing in the four-nation blue-ribbon event are South Korea, Japan and Indonesia.
The winner of the Manila qualifier will advance to the next phase to be held in Papua New Guinea.
The ultimate goal, according to Khan, is making it to the Cricket World Cup 2020 in Australia.
The World Cup is expected to attract a global television audience of more than 1.5 billion people.