Cricket stars take limelight

November 29, 2018

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.