On the afternoon of September 5, 2019, at Forthill Cricket Club in Dundee, Thai sport celebrated one of the most significant moments in its history.
The Thailand women’s cricket team lined up against Papua New Guinea in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup qualifiers.
A place in the 2020 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup beckoned for the victor.
Tasked with chasing a relatively modest 68 to win, Thailand batted their way to victory with ease, securing their place in the T20 World Cup finals for the first time.
The winning run from Nattaya Boochatham sparked joyous celebrations across Thailand, marking the culmination of an extraordinary journey for cricket in the country.
Like many a fairytale, there is often a bleak beginning that serves to juxtapose the story that follows.
In this case, it is the fact that a national women’s cricket team in Thailand did not exist until 2007 that makes their journey all the more remarkable.
While they made their debut against Bangladesh in June 2007, it wasn’t until the 2013 World T20 qualifiers that the Thailand women’s team competed in a tournament outside of the Asian Cricket Council’s regional events.
Despite encouraging – but ultimately unsuccessful – efforts at the 2013 and 2015 World T20 qualifiers, it was the 2015 qualifying tournament hosted in the country that captivated the Thai nation; undeniably boosting the country’s relationship with cricket.
Former Sri Lankan fast bowler Janak Gamage was named head coach of the side in 2016, and just over a year later the team bagged a gold medal in the women’s tournament at the Southeast Asian Games.
The growth of the national side continued to gather momentum in 2018 as the ICC granted full Women’s Twenty20 International (WT20I) status to all of its members.
This major breakthrough meant that all T20 matches played between the Thailand women’s team and other international sides post-July 2018 would be considered full WT20I matches.
Since this breakthrough, the team has reached unprecedented heights.
Among the highlights are a record-breaking 17-match winning streak, victory in Netherlands’ Quadrangular Series – a tournament featuring Ireland, Scotland and Netherlands – and of course, qualification for the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup.
Now, on the eve of their opening match against West Indies, levels of anticipation and excitement extend far beyond the Southeast Asian nation.
Ranked 11th in the Women’s T20 rankings, Thailand are the lowest ranked team among the ten participating sides in the tournament.
However, led by inspirational captain Sornnarin Tippoch, the Southeast Asian side are not in Australia to simply make up the numbers.
Speaking in her recent column, Tippoch reflects this very sentiment.
“Over the years, we have shown our unity and adaptability to situations to be one of the biggest strengths in our team, and we want to be able to do that again in Australia. If we do that, then we believe we can attain our aim of winning one or two games and being able to demonstrate a good brand of cricket for all the fans to see,” Tippoch said.
“Our aim is to just go out there and show what we can do, and hopefully that will be enough to impress on our historic occasion.”
One thing is for sure, while Thailand’s presence in the tournament may well be a fairytale, it is no fluky achievement; but the result of a decade of hard work and a constant desire to improve.
Of course, there’s no doubt they’ll find it difficult in Australia as they come up against the best sides in the world.
But Thailand – backed boisterously from their nation, willingly by the neutral – have both the talent and spirit to ruffle a few feathers.
Thailand are in Group B alongside England, Pakistan, West Indies and South Africa.
Saturday, February 22: Thailand v West Indies
Wednesday, February 26: Thailand v England
Friday, February 28: Thailand v South Africa
Tuesday, March 3: Thailand v Pakistan