A new cricketing power arises in the East...


BEIJING - China has been assigned 400,000 dollars by international cricket authorities to help fund the development of the sport, the Asian Cricket Council announced.

The money will go towards funding school cricket programmes "in order to accelerate cricket's growth in the People's Republic", Syed Ashraful Huq, the council chief executive, said in a press statement on Wednesday.

Already 200,000 dollars has been provided by the council, a sum which will be matched by a further 200,000 dollars from the International Cricket Council (ICC), the statement added.

"This represents an opportunity for everyone involved with cricket in China," Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, said.

The two senior cricket officials are currently in the Chinese capital on a visit to promote the sport.

Speed said that international cricket authorities were backing a 10-year development programme for the sport in China but no one should expect results overnight.

"Cricket in China is still very new and this funding from our two bodies is directed at strengthening the development structure for cricket as established by the state sporting administration," he said.

One year ago cricket was almost unheard of in China but now, 51 schools in Beijing and Shanghai are playing the game, with close to 6,500 participants, said Huq.

"This special funding is targeted at accelerating the growth process just when cricket is starting to gain some momentum," he said.

An under-15s competition amongst schools was held in Beijing in July and in October the first inter-university competition is planned in the capital.

Sports officials in Beijing first expresssed an interest in cricket a decade ago, while China was admitted into the Asian Cricket Council in 2004 and joined the ICC the following year.



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