The 17 Associate and Affiliate members currently in ACC competitions (Brunei have not been participating in the 2011 and 2012 seasons) are in two divisions - Elite and Challenge. Elite is for the top 10 teams, Challenge is for the remainder. After every Challenge event, the top two go up.

Going up at ACC Trophy level means more cricket, a better standard of cricket, more funding, more and a chance to further climb up to play against the Test-playing teams eg. the Emerging Teams Tournament and via the ACC Twenty20 Cup, in which the Elite teams automatically participate, a chance to play in the big show, the World Twenty20, as Afghanistan have twice done. "You cannot believe what it means to be playing for a dream," says China's star all-rounder Zhang Yufei.

China are still not the finished article, but they are a team to be respected. Singapore, Bahrain, Qatar and Thailand can be more fancied for a shot at the title. Singapore, in particular, have a massive desire to get back to the Elite. They didn't play too badly at all in the 2010 Trophy Elite in Kuwait but such is the standard of the Elite Competition, too badly isn't good enough. They lost all their matches. Many of those Singapore players are back this time in Thailand and nothing but the Challenge trophy will be good enough.

Bahrain and Qatar have game sense, flair and undoubted skill, fitness their Achilles heel. Thailand though, are the team that crave that step up to the Elite the most. A re-shaped team, with Thais coming through the youth team system, and some seasoned imports, they're a group that will fight to the last. And they know how to bowl on the northern Thailand wickets. Only their relative competitive immaturity could trip them up.

Myanmar are not to be discounted, for them to field a team in such trying conditions is a victory in itself.

ACC Trophy Challenge 2012 Schedule
ACC Country Rankings

Filed December 6th, 2012