New Delhi:Unfancied China should not be underestimated when cricket makes its debut at the Asian Games next month, according to Pakistan great Javed Miandad.
China will play cricket on the world stage for the first time during the November 12-27 Games in Guangzhou, having qualified for the Twenty20 competition by virtue of being the hosts.
But Miandad, one of the mentors of the fledging sport in China, said the country's cricketers could prove to be the surprise of the tournament.
"Cricket may not be very popular in China, but it is a known fact that when they decide to do something, they go all out," Miandad said on Friday.
"Same is the case with cricket. The Chinese are very quick learners. Just as an example, they have a player who until three months ago did not know what cricket was, he was completely clueless.
"But today he can bowl leg-breaks as good as many professional players.
"Their complete devotion to mastering anything is simply awesome. Something that is missing in Pakistan and India," the former batsman said.
Miandad, who says he will travel to Guangzhou to encourage his wards, has been in constant touch with former internationals, Rashid Khan of Pakistan and Aminul Islam of Bangladesh, who coach the Chinese men's team.
The women's team is coached by former India player Mamatha Maben.
With India opting out of the competition and other top cricketing nations like Sri Lanka and Pakistan fielding second-string teams, China is hoping for a podium finish in Guangzhou.
Cricket was last seen at a major multi-sport event at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, but was dropped for the next three editions in England, Australia and India.
The sport will continue to be played at the Asian Games and will be part of the programme for 2014 in the South Korean city of Incheon.