The popularity of cricket has risen in South East Asia: Raju – SPORT

The emergence of the cricket teams from countries such as Afghanistan, Thailand, Malaysia, Nepal is the consequence of Asian Cricket Council’s efforts to promote cricket in a big way in the recent past.

And, former India left-arm spinner S.L. Venkatapathy Raju is one of the many players, interestingly only Test stars, who are appointed Cricket Development Officers by the ACC to take care of the sport from the grass-roots level in the Asian region.

Raju, who was at Gymkhana sharing a few thoughts on the art of left-arm spin with Pragyan Ojha on Tuesday, reminded that Afghanistan was what it was now thanks to the untiring efforts of former Pakistan player Iqbal Sikander who spent quite a few years there to give a new face to cricket in the war-ravaged nation.

“Similarly, before I joined this panel, the likes of Roger Binny, Rumesh Ratnayake and former Bangladesh captain Aminul Islam have played a significant role in the evolution of the sport in these countries,” said Raju in a chat with The Hindu .

Raju, who is on the job for the last five years, said the duties include taking care of every aspect of the game — right from ensuring that the playing arena was fit to play matches, conducting coaching courses and high-performance tests evaluating the players.

“In fact, based on our recommendations, the best players from each of these countries are also selected and given scholarships,” he said.

“There is plenty of talent which is obvious if you look at the way some of these teams like Afghanistan, Hong Kong, UAE have played in the World Cups. All they needed is proper cricketing guidance,” he said.

The biggest challenge? “Well, in some countries like Thailand you have to learn the local language to conduct the courses.

“But, I tell you, there are some natural players coming from the interiors places. And, as part of the ACC efforts, we even arranged a Thai women’s team visit to ACA Academy in Guntur,” he said.

“We all know that winning medals in international sporting meets takes precedence over everything else in these countries.

But, now, thanks to cricket being included in the South East Asian Games and also featuring in two Asian Games already, the popularity graph of the sport has risen dramatically as more and more youth are taking it up,” Raju said.

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