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  Young cricketers prepare to grab Games by balls:  

Phuket’s young cricketers may have had a disappointing season in the Island Furniture League (IFL), but for most of them, the year’s biggest event is only just getting started.

The Phuket Youth Development squad will be one of 20 cricket teams – 10 boys and 10 girls – arriving in Phuket this weekend for the start of the National Youth Games.

Phuket will only compete in the boys division, but team manager Anongnart ‘Mam’ Ningnoi-Raju is confident that the team will be competitive.

“These boys have a lot of experience through playing in the IFL against older players. I think Phuket will get a medal. Of course, we will try to get gold.”

And that goal might not be as ambitious as it sounds. Last year, Phuket finished fourth at the Youth Games, but defending champions Khon Kaen are without the bulk of their successful squad from last year, many of whom have since turned 19 and are now ineligible to play.

Meanwhile, most of Phuket’s squad are experienced Youth Games campaigners, and with many also approaching the cut-off age of 19, they have the added incentive of knowing this may be their last chance to taste gold.

Standing in their way though, Mam said, are Chantaburi and Bangkok. While she said the Phuket side is “not scared”, she did acknowledge that those two teams will be the biggest barriers to victory.

But don’t tell that to coach Jiraporn ‘Took’ Rodkaew, a woman of few words yet fiery determination. “We will try our best, and we will win the gold medal,” she said.

“We have been training every day except Sunday. The team played very well in the [Phuket International] Sixes against much older players, and playing in the IFL has given them a lot of good experience.”

Cricket matches in the Phuket Games will be played from May 27 - June 5, from 8.30am-2pm.

Boys will play at the ACG, while girls matches will be played at Cherng Talay School. Spectators welcome.

© ACG Phuket Cricket and Sports Club • Supported by The Courtyard, Island Furniture and Alan Cooke MBE