Bhutan pads up for cricket glasnost

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By SUBHASH CHANDRA BOSE in Jaigaon
  • Published 23.02.03
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Jaigaon, Feb. 23: Cricket is spreading its roots beyond the once-colonies of the Empire.

Bhutan, the Himalayan kingdom, which till a few years ago had shut itself from the rest of the world, will compete in an international cricket tournament for the first time.

The national team, made up of players from district sides, will take part in a three-nation tournament in Kathmandu from March 3 to 8.

The 14-member side will battle against teams from Nepal and Maldives in the event organised by the Asian Cricket Council (ACC).

After opening its windows to the world, Bhutan is now trying to catch up on sporting activities.

With satellite television now available, the people have been mesmerised by the heroics of Ronaldo at last year’s football World Cup and are now arguing the finer points of the batting of Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara.

Bhutan got a Fifa ticket in 2000 and participated in the South Asian Federation football meet for the first time in Dhaka last month.

Cricket, which was limited to club level, has now got a boost thanks to the patronage of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who is known to be a lover of sports. In 2000, a year after the king began opening the country’s doors to the modern world, four clubs joined hands to form the Bhutan Cricket Association with Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk as president.

It was included in the ACC as an associate member and was given accreditation by the International Cricket Council (ICC), the London-based body which governs the game worldwide.

BCA spokesman Jigme Norbu said grants received from the ACC have been used to develop infrastructure and promote the game.

“We are making pitches fit for cricket and improving the standard of playing fields,” he said. To groom cricketers, BCA members will scout for talents in schools and then coach them at the cricket centres the association proposes to set up over the years.

The national side is being coached by former Sri Lankan internationals Jayanta Seneviratne and Oshadee Weerasinghe. “We are utilising the resources in the right manner. We want to make cricket popular in the country,” said Norbu.

Seneviratne said he and his colleague Weerasinghe got only two weeks to train the players. “It is just a beginning. Don’t expect miracles of the team as it is the first time they are participating in any international cricket tournament. But we will put in our best and hope to learn from the experience,” the former Sri Lankan cricketer said.