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Cricket bestows unlikely celebrity on rural Thai women

Fighting poverty and prejudice, hilltribe girls become national champions

Sunida Jaturongratthana, 14 years old, practices her batting with coach Aroon Numchokchaijarenkul. (Photo by Denis D. Gray)

LUANG NUA, Thailand -- There is a band of young women, some without parents, others with alcoholic mothers and fathers jailed on drug charges, who have come down from the mountains of northern Thailand. Poverty rules there --and almost nobody can tell the difference between a stump and a wicket.

Yet these feisty, dedicated girls from ethnic minority hilltribes -- often denigrated by lowland Thais -- have emerged as national champions, repeatedly defeating teams from more privileged backgrounds in a rather unlikely sport -- cricket. Some have played in teams that have brought home gold medals from international competitions, and touched hearts throughout the country.

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