Guangzhou: Rashid Khan`s uphill battle to help China win a medal in cricket in the sport`s Asian Games debut got considerably more achievable when India decided not to send teams to Guangzhou.
Still, the ex-Pakistan Test cricketer told The Associated Press he wants to keep his ambitions in check for the Chinese men`s and women`s teams he is coaching.
All tickets for Saturday`s opening day at the 6,500-seat Guanggong Cricket Stadium have been sold. Not surprisingly, a Chinese team will be involved in the first match - the women taking on Malaysia.
Khan says the Asian Games will be an ideal opening for China to move ahead in cricket, and is targeting a semifinal spot for the women`s team which is in a group containing Malaysia, Thailand and Pakistan.
The format of the men`s competition - even without India - might be too tough for China as they would have to face one of the favourites if they advance to the quarterfinals. Pakistan and Bangladesh were seeded directly into the quarterfinals.
"It will be a huge task," Khan said of beating either of those potential opponents. "One should be realistic, but I just want my boys to do well and be competitive."
He`s predicting more for the women, though, expecting wins over Thailand and Malaysia in Group A.
"We have beaten Malaysia recently and have a good idea about them. We were beaten by Thailand two years ago, but have improved a lot since then."
All-rounder Mei Hua was also confident of putting on a good show.
"The games are in our country and it will be ideal if we win a medal," she told AP. "We have done so much hard work that I am confident of beating Malaysia and Thailand from our group and make it to the semifinals."
In recent months, Khan has taken the Chinese women`s team twice on tours to India and once to Bangladesh to prepare for the Twenty20 format at the Asian Games.
China expects to meet the winner of Group B – comprising Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Nepal and Japan - in the semifinal.
Cricket is among the sports making its Asian Games debut at Guangzhou. Dance, dragon boat racing and roller sports are others.
Asian Olympic Council secretary-general Randhir Singh was upset that his country hadn`t sent teams to the games.
"We`re extremely disappointed that India is not here. We were looking forward to India coming in, and their being here would have made a lot of difference to the event," Singh, who is an International Olympic Committee member, said in an interview today.
"When India lobbied and the Asian Cricket Council lobbied very strong for it, they promised that they would be here and that they`d send their best teams - and then they dropped out."