China, where so much attention is being focussed on the Guangzhou Asian Games in November 2010, is looking for a place to train its players to reach a credible international playing standard.

It's like the rest of us having to be fluent, even skilled, in Mandarin within the space of 24 months. From a standing start. If we didn't have access to teachers, libraries and our fellow students for ten of those sixteen months, we'd be struggling. So the Chinese Cricket Association are looking for a place where their players can learn, train and play outdoors for as many days as possible before the 2010 Asian Games: The Holy Grail. They just may have found it in Chengdu.

Aminul Islam with Sichuan Sports Bureau Vice President
Wang Dao Xun

“The CCA (Chinese Cricket Association) know that Guangzhou will be their time in the spotlight, when all the years of preparation and all the millions of dollars of development funding from the ACC and ICC will be put to the test,” says ACC Development Officer for China Aminul Islam. “If it goes well they know it will either be a stepping-stone to the cementing of cricket in China or if it doesn’t, more years of fringe activity. The CCA want their cricketers to do as well as possible in the home Asian Games. To achieve that they have been looking for players and a place to train them all around the year, in the winter months and rainy season.”

Chengdu in Sichuan Province in south-west central China is the country’s fifth most populous city and is an important economic centre and transportation and communications hub. “It is a good place to have a base for cricket in China,’ says CCA External Affairs Director Zhang Tian, “Chengdu has a good climate with long summers and quite mild winters. It is possible to play outdoors all they year.”

The CCA have long identified warm-weather training facilities for cricket as an ideal, Hainan Island, the southern-most part of China being cited. But other sports (those on the Olympic and global medal-fast-track) have grabbed the facilities. While Guangzhou (also in the south) is currently building their stadia for the Asian Games, whether they will be permanent cricket-centres post-2010 is still being discussed.

With land being at such a premium in China’s urban centres, and with so much emphasis on Olympic sports, securing facilities for cricket has not been easy. Chengdu was recently identified by the CCA as potentially fulfilling their needs. Chengdu has responded positively.

In a meeting this week between Aminul Islam, and Zhang Tian and Jack Mang of the CCA with the Sports Bureau of Sichuan Province and Bureau of Social Affairs it was proposed that Chengdu High Tech Zone with its many schools will provide facilities for year-round training. And with softball no longer a part of the Olympic Games, “the local sports bureau will also provide some softball players for the national women cricket team,” says Zhang Tian, “Rashid Khan (China’s national coach) has already identified some of them as quite promising.”

All things going to plan the women will be in Chengdu this winter, with the men joining them next season. Subject to approval from the final bureaucratic level Chengdu will become the permanent base for cricket in China.  “This is a very positive step for us all regarding cricket in China. To have the schools and provinces involved at this level is huge support,” says Aminul.

Related: China Strides Ahead

Filed October 16, 2008