Philippines fans aim for World Cup spot

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The Philippines are known more for boxers than batsmen and their cricket team haven’t played in three years, but the amateur squad will be hoping to make their mark in the T20I World Cup qualifiers.

As the lowest-ranked team in this month’s eight-team qualifying tournament in Oman along with the likes of Nepal, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates, few are more surprised than the Philippines to draw on the skates globally. .

“It’s like a fairy tale,” said skipper Jonathan Hill, a high school teacher in Jervis Bay, New South Wales, Australia, where he plays club cricket.

The Philippines team is made up mostly of Indian expats in Manila and Filipino Australians based in Australia who take time off from their daily jobs to train and play.

Preparations for the biggest games of their lives have been “less than ideal,” Hill said.

The last time the Philippines played a game was three years ago – five victorious, rain-soaked overs against Vanuatu in a regional qualifier in Port Moresby that unexpectedly secured their place in Oman .

After the Covid pandemic hit and competitions were called off, players had to train on their own as lockdowns and border closures made it impossible to gather in one place.

When the 14-man squad meet in Oman, it will be the first time some players have met their international counterparts.

“We’re definitely big underdogs,” Hill said.

“But at the end of the day, cricket is still a game.

“It’s bat versus ball and what I love the most is that it’s not just skill level or fitness level or even intellect – a lot of cricket is a matter of the heart and that’s something we’ve always toyed with.”

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The Philippines debuted on Twenty20 International on March 22, 2019 after the ICC decided to grant full Twenty20 International (T20I) status to all its members in April 2018.

However, the game turned out to be disastrous for them as they lost the game by 133 points while chasing a mammoth total of 217 points.

The Philippines national team made their T20I debut when they took part in the 2011 East Asia-Pacific Division 2, held from April 2-8 in Apia, Samoa.

They managed to record their victories against Samoa beating Indonesia, Cook Islands, Tonga and South Korea.

However, before conceding defeat to the host country in the final. The event was part of the qualification for the 2012 ICC World T20 in Sri Lanka.

After this tournament, they participated in the 2014 ICC East Asia-Pacific Men’s Championship held in New South Wales, Australia. They finished in fifth position among the eight teams that played in this event.

The Philippines finished fourth out of six nations in the 2017 ICC World Cricket League East Asia-Pacific Region Qualifiers and could not claim Fifth division.

– Call for funds –

Oman’s top two teams will book places for the T20I World Cup in Australia later this year.

“We will do our best,” said Vimal Kumar, a 42-year-old off-spinner, who recently took a break from lending and trading in Manila to take part in a rare training session in the Philippine capital. .

“It’s an unpredictable game, you never know who’s going to win.”

Players pay a heavy price to travel to Oman.

While the world governing body, the International Cricket Council, covers flight and accommodation costs for the Philippines, other expenses are left to the players.

A GoFundMe campaign recently launched by Australian coach Henry Tyler is seeking to raise 7,500 Australian dollars (5,300 US dollars) for expenses such as training balls, travel insurance and training net hire.

“In order to represent the Philippines, we must take unpaid leave from our jobs,” Tyler wrote in the appeal, which had not yet reached its goal on Sunday.

Cricket has been socially played in the Philippines for over a century, but it never flourished in the former American colony where basketball and boxing were long the most popular sports.

– Big step forward –

That started to change in 1999 when two expats in Manila established the Philippine Cricket Association.

A few years later, the Philippines joined the ICC as an associate member and they now have men’s and women’s national teams as well as national leagues.

Since their international debut in 2011, the men’s team has won a few victories over other local minnows.

But playing against top-20 ranked teams in World Cup qualifiers is a huge step forward.

Faisal Khan, co-founder of the cricket association and manager of the national team, admitted the odds were stacked against them.

But he said the experience of playing “a notch below the World Cup” was more important than winning.

“Let’s get better and better,” he said.

“Who knows, maybe one day we will play the World Cup.”

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