Cricket is a sport that most people in Korea
have never heard of, never mind even played or watched. But behind the scenes Korea’s national team
has been steadily making progress since 2013, and earlier this month they got their first
taste of international success. Kwon Jang-ho reports. If you were to ask most people in Korea what
they thought of their national cricket team, their response is likely to be ‘What is cricket?’ “Nine out of ten people ask me what kind of
sport is that? I spend all my time explaining the game to
people.” In 2013 a decision was made to form a national
cricket team to compete in the 2014 Asian Games hosted in Korea’s western port town
of Incheon. A ragtag group of athletes was recruited from
other sports, from baseball to cycling, and for most it would be their first time handling
a cricket bat. “At first I thought it was quite brutal and
archaic. You use your bare hands to catch the ball,
and you often get hit by it. It was tough.” They soon got the hang of it though and fell
in love with the game. Despite the lack of infrastructure, funding,
and public support, they’ve been working hard behind the scenes. Their perseverance was rewarded earlier this
month, when they won the T20 East Asia Cup beating host nation Japan in the final. It was their greatest achievement to date,
but there was little recognition from the Korean press. “It was reported on Japanese TV news and media
that we had won the event, but no one in Korea really knew. Obviously it was disappointing, but raising
awareness is part of what we need to work on in the future.” Undeterred, the team are already looking ahead. The 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta is their next
major target, where they are hoping to do better than their quarterfinal finish in Incheon. “Last time we lost to Sri Lanka at the Asian
Games, but the next time we meet, I don’t want them to feel that we are inexperienced
or lacking, and I want them to feel like we gave them a good game.” Through further success in international competitions,
the squad is looking to raise the profile of the sport in Korea. “My dream is to provide the foundation so
that one day one of our players gets into a professional league, earns big money and
gets more Korean people interested.” Kwon Jang-Ho, Arirang News, Incheon.