| A batsman gestures during China’s first national cricket championship in Beijing in July. (Reuters)
Sept. 21: When it comes to ties with Beijing, Pakistan has always beaten India by an innings and more. Now comes news of another defeat: a Pakistani will coach China in cricket.
The Indian cricket board bristles at suggestions that Rashid Khan’s appointment as coach is another innings victory for Pakistan, but it’s a lost chance all the same to teach the Chinese something while the air is thick with advice to learn from the northern neighbour.
So while Beijing will be sending two Buddhist monks to retrace Hiuen-Tsang’s journey, commemorating an occasion when India played teacher 1,400 years ago, Rashid will be explaining to the Chinese how to deliver topspin on a pitch rather than a table.
A gleeful Pakistan Cricket Board chief today put on an air of mock seriousness as he contemplated the task before the cricketer-turned-coach.
“They start with a disadvantage of no heritage,” Shaharyar Khan, who also heads the Asian Cricket Council (ACC), shook his head. “They don’t know who Bradman was. If you don’t know who Bradman was or who Gary Sobers was, how are you going to play cricket'”
With the help of a $400,000 (about Rs 1.85 crore) fund, apparently. The International Cricket Council and ACC have combined to hand it to help China build cricket infrastructure — an occasion that’s brought Shaharyar and ICC’s Malcolm Speed to Beijing on a five-day trip.
If the economic giant with the world’s biggest population of over 1.3 billion takes a fancy to the game, it could one day return that money multiplied by several hundreds to these two cricket bodies’ coffers.
China gained admission into the ACC in 2004 and joined the ICC the following year. In the past one year, it has promoted the game in over 64 schools in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dalian, training 6,500 students and forming over 50 teams.
“The Chinese could do well in cricket as it needs skills, tactics and team work,” Chinese Cricket Association (CCA) chairman Zhang Xiaoning was confident. “Now we have more than 60 accredited level 1 coaches and umpires.”
China’s under-15 team, which will be coached by Rashid, will make its ACC Trophy debut in Thailand in December. Pakistan plans to send a school team to China and has invited Beijing to return the gesture.
The Indian board secretary tried to make light of the defeat by Pakistan.
“The ACC has a committee to take such decisions. PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan is the president of the ‘committee to evaluate China’. The committee decided Rashid Khan would coach in China. There is no question of Pakistan beating us,” Niranjan Shah said.
But could there now be a serious question of, ahem, China beating us'
ACC chief executive Syed Ashraful Huq was confident that “China can play good cricket very quickly. They have the skill and the mental strength.”
Judging from the way China appeared from nowhere to surge up the Olympics tables a couple of decades ago – and continues to surprise by mastering one new discipline after another – no one would bet against a repeat in cricket.
Perhaps some day, a Hao or Xiang instead of a Chappell would be teaching a future Rahul Dravid how to play with a bat as straight as that of the great batsman Hu, known to contemporary fans as “The Great Wall”.