Cricket, anyone? Philippines to host World Cup qualifier

MANILA, Philippines – Forget the stiff upper lip. The very British game of cricket is thriving in the Philippines. 

The Philippines will duke it out with Indonesia, Japan and South Korea in the cricket field of Emilio Aguinaldo College from December 1 to 7, 2018 when Dasmariñas, Cavite hosts the initial qualifier of the 2020 Twenty20 World Cup.

"We are favorites for this qualifying tournament," said Faisal Khan, chairman of the Philippine Cricket Association (PCA) management committee, in a recent press conference at City Garden Hotel, Makati. 

"We should win comfortably and we will be a medal contender in the 2019 SEA Games," added the Pakistani, who has been in the Philippines for 3 decades.

The winner after two round robins will advance to the second of 4 stages of qualifying early in 2019. 

Australia will host the World Cup in 2020 with defending champion West Indies, a combined team of several Carribbean nations, looking to extend its reign. 

Just like some Philippine teams, the national cricket squad will rely heavily on overseas-born Filipinos to increase the chances of success. 

Khan said there are 6 to 8 players in the United Kingdom and Australia with Filipino roots who are expected to beef up the Philippine squad in December. He noted some of these players are plying their trade just below the top-tier of club cricket in their countries of birth.

The PCA, which is vying for full NSA status in the Philippines, currently runs a 24-team men's league out of the EAC field. There is also a 4-team women's league and an under-19 competition as well.

Jane Livesey, the East Asia development manager for Cricket Australia, notes the "huge potential" for growth of the game in the Philippines. But naturally, Filipinos must understand the rules, or laws of the sport, which are not as Byzantine as one might think.

The country's unfamiliarity with the game, in fact, was evident even at the press conference. A sign outside the function room read "Philippine Crickets Association." Fortunately, there were no entomologists in attendance, just sportswriters. 

Cricket 101 

Cricket is much like its relative, baseball, in the sense that the team who scores the most runs wins. Instead of the 9 innings with 3 outs in baseball, cricket has either one or two innings, and 10 outs. Got it? We are halfway there towards understanding the sport!

Instead of running around bases, batsmen (batters in cricket) shuttle back and forth along the rectangular wicket in the center of the field in order to accumulate runs after successfully striking a delivery from a bowler, the cricket equivalent of a pitcher. There are two bowlers and two batsmen on either end of a wicket.

Instead of a strike zone, there are two wooden stumps on either end of the wicket that bowlers try to strike to get an out. The batter in return attempts to protect the stumps and the tiny wooden bails on top of them by striking the ball, which customarily bounces before it goes near the batsman. The bowler must toss the ball overhand and may not bend his throwing elbow.

Outs can be gained by a batsman getting bowled out, or having the stumps rattled by a delivery. He may also be caught out like in baseball. A batsman can also be run out, where the stumps take the place of the base in baseball. A fielder or bowler can, instead of stepping on the base while holding the ball, disturb the stumps while in possession of a fielded ball. 

A batsman is also out if he blocks a bowl that was deemed to be stumps-bound with his leg. This ocurrence is known as Leg Before Wicket or LBW.

Once a batsman is out, the next batsman on the batting order takes his place.

The cricket bat, usually made of willow, is blade-shaped, unlike the round baseball bat.

Home runs are big events in baseball, and hitting it out of the park in cricket is also a thrilling part of the game. However, in cricket there are two types of home runs.

If the batted ball clears the boundary of the field on the fly, he is awarded six runs. (The boundary is usually marked by a very long rope on the ground encircling the oval playing area.) If the ball bounces within the field then crosses the rope, he tallies four runs.

There are three types of cricket. The first is the traditional Test cricket, which features two innings each, with an unlimited number of deliveries in each inning. That is why Test matches often last 5 days. The play often takes so long that there is a traditional break for tea during afternoon innings.

Millennials are not known for their attention span, so interest in Test cricket has waned over the years. This has sparked the emergence of two shorter forms of cricket, known collectively as Limited Overs Cricket, in which there is only one inning per team instead of two. (An “over” is the term for a set of six deliveries or bowls by the bowler.)

The first form restricts the game to 50 overs per inning and a match usually takes a whole day to complete. When played between nations, this kind of cricket is known as ODI or One Day Internationals.

The newer form is Twenty20, which further chops down the number of overs to 20 each. These games are often finished in three hours or less.

While many hidebound cricket traditionalists frown upon the abbreviated forms of the game, Twenty20 has exploded in popularity worldwide, with several successful leagues paying out big money to players, especially in the Indian subcontinent.

Foreign residents 

The Philippines is only participating in international competition in this variety of the sport, which is a practical call. 

Khan said the International Cricket Conference or ICC, the worldwide governing body of the game, allows foreign residents of a country to compete for that nation if they have stayed there for 7 years. 

Many in the Philippine team will likely fall under this category. The residency period is supposedly set to be reduced further to 3 years, similar to World Rugby's rules. 

But Khan also revealed that there are already Philippine born-and-bred kids playing the sport. He said there are scores of youngsters in the Dasmariñas area playing cricket, using plastic bats and balls. 

Perhaps in a few years, homegrown cricketers will suit up for the Philippines, as they have already done in rugby.

Recently British Commonwealth sports like rugby and netball have found their niche in the Pinoy sports firmament. Now cricket takes the spotlight. Let's see if Filipino sport fans do indeed get bowled over by the joys of this game. –


Follow Bob on Twitter @PassionateFanPH