On Saturday, February 25th, six countries will meet at the Pakistan Sports Complex in Islamabad to compete in the 13th BFA West Asia Baseball Cup.
The tournament is split into two groups of three. Pakistan, Iraq and Nepal will compete in Group A while Iran, India and Sri Lanka battle it out in Group B.
The reigning champions of the West Asia Baseball Cup (WABC), Pakistan spent a great deal of the 2016 season participating in, and trying to get to, tournaments against European teams. They were scheduled to appear at Prague Baseball Week but visa issues held them at the border. In September they made an appearance at the World Baseball Classic Qualifier in Brooklyn but were shutout before heading home early.
While they have had little luck on the larger international stage, they have been kings of the diamond in the WABC in recent years. Since 2012, when the event was split between East and West divisions, they have taken home all three championship titles. Before the split, they were still competitive. In 2010, which was an identical repeat of 2006, they took the title away from both Honk Kong and Thailand. They were runners up in 2001, 2002 and 2004 as well.
First-time participants, Nepal started their baseball team just two years ago this April. They have come a long way in their very short history. In December they held the first Nepal Baseball Championship and were awarded their spot in this week’s tournament. Iraq’s team was started in 2009 by two teens who brought the game home after spending time living in the USA.
India, like much of Europe, has had baseball since the end of the Second World War. In 2015, they came home from the tournament in 3rd place behind Iran. Throughout their history in the WABC, they’ve been in place positions three times since 1995. Sri Lanka first placed in 2009 and has had three placements since. They placed once before the split and twice now since being moved to the West. Iran has placed twice since 2012.
The tournament format is a single game round robin with a winner and runner up in each pool playing for a spot in the championship round. The new champion will be crowned on March 1st. More than 200 people including coaches, players, officials and office staff are expected to participate in the event.
Organized by the Baseball Federation of Asia (BFA), the tournament went to a bi-annual format in 2016. The event is the qualifier for two teams to compete in the Asian Baseball Championship, the main competition between all the national teams in Asia. That event is held with Chinese Taipei, Japan, South Korea and China all of whom receive automatic placement in the tournament. The date for the 2017 event will be set at this month’s BFA meetings. The event has no broadcast schedule publicized at this time.