Dubai: Women's cricket is growing in popularity in Islamic countries and, taking the cue, the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) has embarked on a series of initiatives to develop this aspect of the game.
"There was a school of thought that believed that women from Islamic countries may not play this game. Countries like Iran have proved them wrong. In fact, the cricket dress suits their religious dress code. They can play the game wearing full-length trousers and full-sleeve shirts, which wouldn't be possible in many other sports," pointed out Ashraf Ul Haq, chief executive of the ACC.
"Probably another reason which attracted women to try out the game is because they can play wearing the hijab," he added.
The ACC has been active in almost all Islamic countries in Asia, organising umpiring and coaching programmes. A programme to develop the women's game is in full swing in Qatar and, in Iran, women attended umpiring courses conducted by umpire Mahboob Shah.
"Women are also playing the game in Saudi Arabia. It is so encouraging to see women's team from these countries play with a lot of enthusiasm. We are so impressed with the increasing popularity of the game among women in the region [that] we have decided to host the women's cricket tournament along with the men's tournament during the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China."
Haq is impressed with China's enthusiasm for hosting cricket.
"The world will be surprised at the cricket facilities that China is building for the Asian Games. It is a state-of -the-art stadium and it will put a lot of international stadiums around the world to shame," he said.