HANGZHOU: Pakistan’s volleyball team opened their Asian Games campaign with a credible straight-sets win over Mongolia in Hangzhou on Tuesday.
While the opening ceremony of the Games — taking place from Sept 23-Oct 8 — does not take place until Saturday, several sports began on Tuesday, including football, volleyball, beach volleyball and cricket.
Pakistan won their opening Pool ‘D’ tie 25-17, 25-19, 25-20 with Murad Khan Junior playing an influential role with his powerful serves and strong attacks at the net. They face Chinese Taipei next on Wednesday.
The first event of the day was a clash between Indonesia and Mongolia in the women’s T20 cricket competition, which Indonesia won by 172 runs after bowling out Mongolia for just 15 runs.
Mongolia’s women were making their debut at an international tournament and were given a harsh lesson as Indonesia made 187-4 in the Twenty20 preliminary-round match.
Indonesia’s total included 49 extras, 38 of them wides by the Mongolian bowlers. In reply, an outclassed Mongolia were out for 15 in 10 overs.
Mongolia’s coach David Talalla said he was proud of his young team — their average age is just 19 — given their very limited resources and experience of the sport.
More than half of his players had never even left Mongolia before and this was their first experience of a grass wicket, having been used to an artificial pitch at home.
Mongolia’s kit is second-hand from Australia, and their four bats donated by a French ambassador whose wife is English and a cricket fan, said Talalla, who is working for free.
“I know we’ve only made 15 runs but none of our girls have played the game for longer than two years and we know what a technical game it is,” said Talalla.
“We’ve only got a squad of 12 — that’s all we could afford to bring,” added Talalla, saying all of his players were in tears afterwards.
“The whole idea is the longer picture — cricket in Mongolia, who would have thought it?” he said. “Even myself, I’ve only been in the job here for five weeks as a high-performance coach but six months ago, I didn’t even know they played cricket in Mongolia. I think most of the world didn’t.”
In men’s football, North Korea returned to major international competition for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic with a 2-0 win over Taiwan. North Korea closed its already tight borders in early 2020 following the Covid outbreak and skipped the Tokyo Olympics, which were pushed back to 2021 because of the pandemic. The country was then banned from the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics for failing to take part in Tokyo.
But North Koreans are competing at its first multisport event since the Asian Games in Jakarta in 2018.
Rivals South Korea began their quest for a third men’s Asian Games gold in a row with a 9-0 demolition of Kuwait. Attacking midfielder Jeong Woo-yeong, who plays for Stuttgart in Germany, hit a hat-trick.
There was home delight as China began their Games football campaign with a 5-1 thumping of India.
Asian Games men’s football squads are made up of under-23 players but teams are allowed three older players.
Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2023