Cricket: Learning experience for S'pore

SINGAPORE - From the bottom of the pile in the eight-team Asian Cricket Council's Emerging Teams Cup competition starting today, Singapore have only one route left.

Look up.

So with the biggest underdogs' tag, the hosts' pressure is alleviated, expectations are lowered and tension is eliminated.

And along the way in the eight-nation tournament, if Singapore can raise their game they will be praised, and if a victory is snatched that will be a big bonus.

A boost to local cricket, which has been mired in mediocrity despite the Singapore Cricket Association's serious attempts to up the ante in a situation where the number of players is growing but the standard of the game remains stagnant.

Rivalry for Singapore in this tournament comes in the form of four Test-playing nations in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, one team with ODI (one-day international) status in Afghanistan, and in the United Arab Emirates and Nepal teams with a higher status in the World Cricket League.

So when Trevor Chappell's men begin their campaign against Bangladesh today, at best Singapore should perform to the level of avoiding an embarrassment which their predecessors experienced in Bangladesh in 1989.

Victory against a team of Test status is certainly out of sight.

After all, the seven other teams in the competition have full-time players, and four of them have a good number of talent who are knocking on the doors of Test cricket.

If statistics - a good guide for cricket - are an indicator of cricketing outcomes, then Singapore, having beaten only one of the seven teams (Afghanistan in Jersey some four years ago) should lose all their games.

But the opportunity to play against much-stronger opponents is something skipper Saad Khan Janjua and his boys are looking forward to.

And Singapore should ignore the might of their opposition and believe in their own strengths.

In that aspect, Singapore have vigour in their youth players and boundless energy in the teenagers. And with emphasis on the learning curve, the hosts will feel relaxed before every game.

In spinners Anish Param and Abhiraj Singh, Singapore can count on two effective bowlers while Chetan Surywanshi, Kshitij Shine, Andre de Lange, Chaminda Ruwan and Param can be relied on to chalk up the runs.

For the fans, this tournament is of special significance, for taking part will be Indian Premier League players who are earning big bucks and a host of precocious talent who will be Test stars in the future.

Teams

Group A: India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal.

Group B: Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates, Singapore.

Fixtures:

Today: Bangladesh v Singapore (Kallang), Afghanistan v Nepal (SCC Padang).

Tomorrow: India v Pakistan (Kallang), Sri Lanka v Bangladesh (SCC Padang).

Games start at 9.30am.


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