Myanmar’s first cricket ground: Saw Pong, December 2011

It’s not easy getting things done in Myanmar. Getting things in is difficult and once they’re in, using them is problematic. Nevertheless, Myanmar’s first cricket ground is up and running. And being used for football too. Problematically. Nevertheless, they’ve achieved a lot even with all their inefficiencies and if it were not for certain things could achieve even more for the country.

Rain has beset Yangon this year and it has pushed back the completion of the ground – the outfield is still lumpen with patchy grass as the grass-cutting machinery has been delayed by customs regulations. And footballers and baseballers are using the outfield in the absence of any perimeter fencing or security.

“Since rain is an everyday phenomenon, an indoor practice facility is the only way BDCA can ensure uninterrupted training,” says ACC Development Officer for Myanmar Aminul Islam who accompanied ACC Development Manager Bandula Warnapura to the country in December. There are just two coaches in the country apart from national coach Ashfaq-ul-Islam and, as hard as they work, they have limited time with the players and once they have them the coaches are loath to do anything more than give the players a chance to have as much fun as possible. “Training stops, play begins, but they can’t play well if they don’t train and warm-up properly so it’s almost a self-defeating exercise,” says Aminul, “the basic problem is that they are not exposed to enough quality cricket.”

This will change however during the next SEA (South East Asian) Games in Myanmar in 2013. The new capital Naypyidaw, 400 kilometers away from former capital Yangon (Rangoon), is the host city. Cricket is in line to be an official sport at the event with the new ground serving as the official venue for matches most likely between Brunei, Indonesia Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the hosts. The five centre-strips at Saw Pong, (“beautiful turf, great for batting” says Aminul) have yet to be officially opened but have had a couple of domestic Twenty20 matches. The square itself needs to be raised a few inches according to the instructions of the ACC Development Manager to facilitate drainage and work is continuing on that.

During their visit the ACC officials and the President and Secretary of the Myanmar Cricket Federation (MCF) met with the Chief Minister of Yangon and the Secretary General of the National Olympic Committee U Thaung Hitke to discuss Myanmar’s cricketing prospects. “No doubt Myanmar has potential. The players are enthusiastic and the administrators are ambitious but there are some major on-ground hurdles to be overcome. Following our meetings the government has pledged to allow the free import of cricket gear and ground-maintenance machinery which will allow more of the ACC funding to be spent on cricket itself,” says the ACC Development Manager.

While he was in the country the ACC Development Officer conducted a refresher coaching course and also stressed the need for the MCF to focus on regional development. “At the moment some development initiatives are going on in Yangon, Mandalay and Taunggyi. Cricket was introduced in Pago last year but the development is very slow. Our suggestion is for the MCF to look for new regions and to speed up the development activities in existing regions. And start a women’s cricket program,” says Aminul. Cricket has been a feature of Yangon school sport but growth has apparently stalled.

The potential for Myanmar to become the next Thailand in the way that Thailand could become the next Malaysia remains.

Myanmar Cricket Profile

Filed January 6th, 2012