|Lamphun’s golden boys and bronzed girls in Sisaket, Bunchuai Sombatraksa is sitting far left|
Four years ago 18-year old Bunchuai Sombatraksa knew nothing about cricket. From the Akha hill tribe, living 700 kilometres north of Bangkok, the beneficiary of an outreach program set up by English expatriate Chris Dodd, Bunchuai's life before cricket revolved around the Buddhist seminary he has called home since the age of 11, and his six sisters. Last week in Sisaket, eastern Thailand, he captained Lamphun province to victory in the National Youth Games with a stellar performance, scoring 177 runs for once out in five 15 over-matches, and taking 10 wickets for 58 with his leg-breaks. Opening for his side, he was on the field for all but three balls of Lamphun’s matches. "He really is a quality player and is committed to cricket. We expect he will go far," says Cricket Association of Thailand’s Chief Executive Mohideen Kader.
19 provinces now play cricket in Thailand, and the five designated regions of Thailand after holding regional qualifiers send their top two provinces to join the hosts plus the defending champions in the National Youth Games. Chiang Mai have topped national cricket in recent years, but 2014 has been Lopburi’s all the way so far. Winning the National Youth Championships in January Lamphun have now won the prestigious National Youth Games and the cricketers bagged the only gold medals for the province. The Sisaket Games featured more than 40 events and had over 10,000 teenagers taking part. They have been an annual event in Thailand for 30 years, with cricket being in them for the past four.
Defending champions Chiang Mai couldn’t make it to the quarter-finals in the boys’ event but Chiang Mai’s girls made it through to their Final only to have their crown taken away by Chanthaburi who beat them by 13 runs. Lamphun won the boys’ event in style, beating Chonburi, who had earlier twice posted totals over 100, by 10 wickets. Bunchuai who had taken 3 for 13 then put on 85 with fellow opener Chanchai Pengkamta to overhaul the Chonburi score.
The Cricket Association of Thailand say that “Bunchuai was the outstanding candidate for Player of the Tournament and Lamphun were clearly the most disciplined team as the hours of practice have brought them well-deserved success but it was good to see other provinces making steady progress. Chanthaburi had upset Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen and Uttaradit were losing semi-finalists, and Chonburi had surpassed all expectations by reaching the final.” Competition for places in the Thailand national side is likely to be intense from now on.
|Bunchuai batting against Chanthaburi|
Having played U-16 and U-19 cricket for Thailand in ACC events, Bunchuai is already coaching in Lamphun having achieved the top passing mark in a recent CAT Level I course. He has just left school and is on his way to college in Chiang Mai to study business. “The kind of exposure these players get at the national level also gives them a lot of help when it comes to school and university applications,” says Mr. Kader. Bunchuai Sombatraksa has made a difference to Lamphun’s sporting fortunes, and cricket has made a difference to him.
Thailand Cricket Profile
City of Great Education for Thai Cricket
Filed April 1st, 2014