Cricket in Kunahandhoo, Laamu Atoll, Maldives, the Indian Ocean

The ACC's Venkatapathi Raju has just returned from a place he had never thought he would ever go, a place he had not even heard of until a month ago, a place that he was pleasantly astounded to find, has cricket. Kunahandhoo on the southern tip of Laamu Atoll, 260 kilometres south of Malé, as part of the Milo Atoll Youth Development Program hosted a cricket tournament, one where the girls beat the boys. "To see the simple joy of cricket, where people are playing for the pure fun of the game is very heartening," says the ACC Development Officer.

Raju was accompanied on the 1-hour plane and then half-hour boat journey from Maldives capital Malé to Kunahandhoo by Cricket Board of Maldives President Ahmed Didi. “It’s not easy managing cricket across such a big area, with so little land available for cricket and where it is so difficult to maintain a ground but full credit to the CBM for keeping cricket going,” says Raju. The Maldives Board has talent identification pathways in place and anyone with talent is given as much support as possible in terms of equipment and coaching. “It’s no secret that the Maldives has a problem in keeping its youth motivated and then gainfully employed, if just a couple of hundred each year can devote their time to cricket (this being one advantage of the perceived length of the game) then there’s a social payoff that goes far beyond the cost of a few bats and balls, and basic facilities,” adds the former India international.

“To play cricket especially where the conditions are so difficult…I’m ready to do what I can to help and companies like Milo should be applauded for their social welfare initiative, along with the Cricket Board of Maldives,” says Raju, “it’s the kind of place many cricket administrators around the world can’t imagine even existing.”

The Maldives senior side, some of whose players themselves were not too far away from these basics when they first started playing are about to play in the ACC Twenty20 Cup, the winning of which will take them to Ireland for the World Twenty20 Qualifiers in June. Mighty blokes from little atolls grow.

Maldives Cricket Profile

Filed January 22nd, 2015