By Jay Dansinghani
While international cricket is slowly returning to stadiums across the globe, the action has largely focused on men’s cricket played between full member nations. In the last 12 months, many associate nations have seen international cricket come to a complete standstill.
In the spirit of promoting a more inclusive and global sport, we thought we’d focus on five players to watch from associate nations.
But it’s hard to pick just five!
So, we thought we’d narrow things down to players from associate nations in Asia.
Janak Prakash (Singapore Men’s, 20)
While much of Singapore’s recent success—which culminated in them reaching the 2019 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier—has been credited to Singaporean-born Hurricanes all-rounder Tim David, several younger players have also stepped up in recent times.
One such player is Janak Prakash, who is easily Singapore’s quickest bowler. Prakash’s bouncers can take even the most skilled batters by surprise, while much of his early success was built on a pinpoint accurate yorker.
He’s taken 17 wickets in 15 T20Is, conceding 7.28 RPO: impressive numbers for someone who bowls almost exclusively in the Powerplay and at the death.
In Singapore’s historic win over Zimbabwe in September 2019, Prakash conceded a mere 7 runs in the penultimate over of Zimbabwe’s chase, clean bowling Ryan Burl with a yorker that swung in late. Zimbabwe failed to chase down the 10 runs required off the final over as the Southeast Asian nation notched up one of, if not the biggest, victory in their cricketing history.
Unfortunately, Prakash leaked runs at the Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier finishing with an economy rate of 8.68. However, there is still time for him to develop as he plays more regularly in high-pressure situations against higher-ranked associates and full members.
Nannapat Koncharoenkai (Thailand Women’s, 20)
Images of Natthakan Chantham’s sumptuous cover drives and her famous diving stop at the Women’s T20 Challenge have become synonymous with the sport in Thailand.
Along with Naruemol Chaiwai and Nattaya Boochatham, Chantham has formed the bedrock of Thailand’s batting in the last decade. However, keeper-bat Koncharoenkai has emerged in recent years to beef up a traditionally top-heavy batting order.
In addition to top-scoring with 33 against the West Indies in Thailand’s opening fixture of last year’s T20 World Cup, she played the role of finisher with an unbeaten 20 off 13 against Pakistan, propelling Thailand to 150 in their 20 overs. Had it not been for Sydney’s infamous rain, this total may well have been enough for the biggest win in Thailand’s cricketing history.
Koncharoenkai’s average of 16.86 and her strike rate of 73.62 in the shortest format are both headed in the right direction and given her tender age, she will get physically stronger as time goes on. With Thailand featuring in the Women’s World Cup Qualifier scheduled for June and July this year in Sri Lanka, a strong tournament from Koncharoenkai could help the nation script yet another fairytale.
Kazumasa Takahashi (Japan Men’s, 17)
A genuine all-rounder who often opens the bowling and can bat in the top seven, Kazumasa Takahashi became the youngest player to represent Japan’s Men’s team when he made his debut a day after his 15th birthday. With eight senior team appearances under his belt, Takahashi was also instrumental in Japan qualifying for the 2020 U19 World Cup.
At the 2019 East Asia Pacific Regional Qualifier, Takahashi finished as Japan’s second-highest wicket-taker with 6 wickets in 3 games at a stunning economy of 1.83. With the bat, he was the only batter aside from skipper Marcus Thurgate to register a half-century throughout the course of the tournament, finishing as the second-highest run-scorer for his team.
Takahashi is one of eleven players selected for the 2020 U-19 World Cup, who will still be eligible for the 2022 edition. With Japan hosting the EAP Qualifier, the poster boy for Japanese cricket’s successful youth development and schools program will be crucial to the nation’s chances of back-to-back World Cup appearances.
Kary Chan (Hong Kong Women’s, 23)
Having taken over the reins of the national team, Kary Chan is a frugal, wicket-taking left-arm spinner and a southpaw who keeps the scoreboard ticking. She topped the wicket-taking charts for Hong Kong at the Women’s T20 World Cup Asia Qualifier in 2019, taking 10 wickets in 6 games at an economy of 3.38.
Hong Kong, unfortunately, finished a disappointing fifth out of seven teams in the tournament, which Thailand would go on to win quite convincingly, progressing to the global qualifier and eventually to the World Cup itself. Thailand’s success means they are now guaranteed a spot in the next global qualifier, opening the door for the likes of Hong Kong, Nepal, the UAE, and China in the next Asian sub-regional qualifier.
Despite underwhelming with the bat of late in national colours, Chan remains one of the nation’s finest batters, who picks up length very quickly and is severe on anything short.
Hong Kong will be hoping to make a splash on the global scene in the next few years and to do that they will rely heavily on skipper Chan.
Virandeep Singh (Malaysia Men’s, 21)
The tall and elegant Virandeep Singh already holds a slew of records. He’s the youngest player to represent Malaysia’s men’s team, debuting as a 15-year-old in the 2015 ACC Twenty20 Cup.
Against Vanuatu in September 2019, he became the youngest ever captain in Men’s T20I history at 20 years and 190 days.
Having established a reputation as a technically correct and patient batter in his early years, Virandeep, in recent times, has markedly improved his range hitting in the shortest format.
After top-scoring for Malaysia in Challenge League Group A — part of the qualification pathway towards the Men’s ODI World Cup — he topped the series run charts with 174 runs at a strike rate of 128 during Malaysia’s 5-0 sweep over Hong Kong in February 2020. He also topped the six-hitting charts, clearing the ropes seven times across the series.
Ask anyone on the Malaysian cricket scene, and they will tell you that the best is yet to come from this batting prodigy. Going forward, he will undoubtedly have a big role to play in getting Malaysia into more global tournaments.
Go to our homepage to check out our other articles which include:
Big Bash League Under 24 Team of the Tournament
Jhye Richardson style of play and analysis
Players to watch: Ireland v UAE & Afghanistan
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