Pakistan have confirmed that they will host an inaugural women's Asia Cup of cricket starting in December, amid growing female interest in South Asia's most popular sport.
Pakistan's arch-rivals India, along with Sri Lanka and possibly Bangladesh, will take part in the tournament in Karachi from December 26 to January 4. "It's a big honour for Pakistan to be the first host of the Asia Cup and the event will definitely raise the standard of cricket in Asia," said Shamsa Hashmi, the secretary of the Pakistan Cricket Board women's section.
Pakistan, who will also host the ninth men's Asia Cup next year, was chosen as the hosts after a two-day meeting in Lahore which was also attended by representatives from India and Sri Lanka.
"Bangladesh has yet to confirm its participation," added Hashmi, "but we are in touch with them and if they do not come, the tournament will be contested by three teams on a double-league basis."
India is the top Asian nation in women's cricket, having finished runners-up to Australia in the women's World Cup held in South Africa early this year. Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh all failed to qualify for the World Cup.
Cricket has been drawing a growing female fan base in India while, across the border, the women's sport got a shot in the arm earlier this year when it was placed under the supervision of the Pakistan Cricket Board.
The board hosted Pakistan's debut national cricket championship for women in March and then invited the Indian Under-21 team for a first-ever women's cricket series between the rivals, which India wrapped up last week.