|The 2009 Bhutan Senior Side|
Bhutan’s rise from ACC Challenge to ACC Elite divisions at U-15 and U-19 level over the past three years, as well as their launch of a promising women’s cricket team has infused them with ambition and optimism for the challenges ahead.
“My dream for 2010 is to be the finalists in the ACC U-19 Women's Championship, the finalists in the U-16 Challenge and do well in the Elite group of the ACC Trophy,” says National Coach Damber Singh Gurung. He will also be playing again for the senior side after a gap of four years, so has every chance of making at least one of those dreams come true.
Bhutan’s cricketing rise from absolute minnows to Elite-level contenders has been the result of some dedicated work by Bhutan’s coaches and cricket Board since 2004, the first year they competed in the ACC Trophy. From having cricketers representing Bhutan who learnt their cricket while at school in India, they now have 34 schools with cricket in the curriculum, a number which will climb to 50 by the end of 2010.
“When we first played in ACC U-19 most of the players from other countries were elder and experience than us but after winning few matches we know it is all about preparation not the age, says Bhutan’s women’s captain Pema Lhaden.
For a country with no history of cricket, without anything like a full-size ground, with a difficult climate and with little access to equipment, Bhutan has done extremely well in getting to the top of the Challenge groups they’ve competed in since the decision was made in 2006 to split the 18 ACC non-Test playing countries into two competitive divisions Elite and Challenge. A first foray into Elite level U-19 cricket resulted in a bottom-place finish and thus relegation back down to Challenge, but there’s every chance they’ll bounce back.
“More than 700 played in the school tournaments of 2009,” says Mr. Gurung, with national squad candidates being coached in separate programs run by the Bhutan Board’s ever-growing number of qualified coaches. “Increasing in coaching is different thing but increasing in playing is something we want,” says BCCB CEO Jigme Norbu. With more cricketers of quality to choose from, Bhutan’s performance should hold steady if not improve, as they have been increasingly reliant on the same core of cricketers to carry them through the youth-groups into the seniors.
Currently ranked 43rd in the world (out of 104) Bhutan’s first step up the ladder to further global significance will come in the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 8 fixtures at the end of the year.
Bhutan Cricket Profile
Filed Jan 12th, 2010