Singapore is currently ranked 20th in the world for cricket. In the 2017 SEA Games, Singapore won its first cricket gold meal. The Singapore cricket team has also beaten some of the best cricketing nations in the world like Zimbabwe, Scotland, and Canada and has turned in stellar performances at other international tournaments like the Asian Cricket Council Trophy and the International Cricket Council World Cup.
Yet despite all these accomplishments, the Singapore national cricket team doesn’t even have its own ground to practise in.
Against all odds
In fact, Singapore’s 2017 gold medal achievement was accomplished against all odds it seemed. Singapore Cricket Association (SCA) CEO Saad Khan Janjua explained: “One month before the SEA games, we lost the use of our regular training ground – the Kallang Drome – but you know what we did? We said ‘okay,’ no problem, we booked a field in Johor Bahru, put up our team in a cheap hotel and trained there.”
According to SCA President Mahmood Gaznavi, even the 2017 SEA games medals were not the team’s highest achievements. The Singapore cricket team’s performance in international tournaments like the Asian Cricket Council Trophy and the International Cricket Council World Cup, where they turned in performances “at various levels”, were greater accomplishments.
“We have beaten some very good teams, like Canada, Bermuda and Scotland. But I feel like we didn’t get the recognition,” he says. “Because it is in platform that the institutions here in Singapore don’t recognise.”
Most sports federations have a home, but cricket does not have one. It does not have to be a good location or in a prime area, but what we need is security of tenure.”
– SCA President Mahmood Gaznavi
No training ground
Gaznavi says that there is also recognition for several types of sporting events – the SEA Games, the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics. Cricket unfortunately is not a regular sport included in any of these events and world championship events and achievements are not readily recognised.
Gaznavi emphasizes that the most basic requirement – that of a dedicated ground for training – is one of the biggest challenges for further progress.
He says: “Because we don’t have a ground, we find that our programs are haphazard, and we cannot have good control of the direction we wish to take. When we had a ground in Kallang, we ran youth programs, classrooms, got logistical support like umpires, teaching courses, and programs to enhance the playing level of the team. And you’ve got to recognise that cricket cannot be a portion of a field. The ground has to be specially tailored ground for playing cricket – because 95% of the action is in the middle of the ground, where the strip is. You can’t share a field with hockey or cricket or rugby.”
“Most sports federations have a home,” Gaznavi adds. “But cricket does not have one. It does not have to be a good location or in a prime area, but what we need is security of tenure.”
Currently, the national team trains by renting the Indian Association’s field. However, as the Indian Association’s own lease is on a year-to-year basis, there is no security of tenure for cricket as well.
Our 20th position is not a permanent place. Where we go from here really depends on how we develop a skillful team of home-grown players. We need a world-class, high performance training facility if we are to continue playing with the big boys.”
– SCA CEO Saad Khan Janjua
There are currently 105 ‘cricket playing nations’ (countries that are members of the International Cricket Council). Out of these, 12 are test playing nations, out of which 5 countries automatically get a slot to vie for the Asia cup. Of the remaining 93 nations, according to Gaznavi, Singapore is a strong contender, along with three other nations – Hong Kong, Nepal and the United Arab Emirates – who are vying for a slot in the Asian Cup.
“We are just one step away from joining the giants of Asia like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan in the Asia Cup,” said Saad. “It’s a qualifier that’s coming up later this year or next year. And we are also in the T20 Global world cricket qualifier and World cricket league qualifiers.”
However, Saad cautions: “Our 20th position is not a permanent place. Where we go from here really depends on how we develop a skillful team of home-grown players. We need a world-class, high performance training facility if we are to continue playing with the big boys. We hope to get a home like the other NSAs in Singapore.”
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