ACC Development Officer Iqbal Sikander has completed a ten-day assignment in Iran, his first in two years to the country.
During the visit Iqbal Sikander had an opportunity to visit for the first time the remote villages and small towns where cricket has just started to be played. "It was a pleasant surprise to see so much interest not just in the players but also in the local Government officials who were very excited and optimistic about the future of cricket in their respective towns," says Mr. Sikander.
|Cricket, somehow, Iran|
Chabahar, around 1000 kilometres outside Tehran towards Pakistan on the Persian Gulf, is a growth area for Iranian cricket. Along with officials from the Iranian Baseball and Cricket Federation (ICF) Iqbal Sikander met with the Governor and the Mayor of Chabahar. The Governor pledged to allocate a plot of land which is already been used for cricket in Chabahar to the Federation for dedicated activity. Work has already started on another ground in Chabahar.
Away from the coast, in a very remote village called Nikshahr cricket has surprisingly taken root. There is little water for the players, let alone for the growth of turf, but cricket has somehow gained a foothold in this impoverished area.
Iqbal Sikander’s first-hand account: “Some players and children have to walk down from mountains which at time takes two hours. They have very little cricket equipment and the playing field is rocky and dangerous for fielding. The locals have constructed a concrete pitch and play their matches with very little facilities. At the time this DO visited them, the temperature was 45ºC and they have been playing since morning with no shade even for the players to sit and have a rest. Water is brought in water coolers and they have to ration it so that it would last the day. But the amount of interest they have proves the fact that cricket is here to stay. I requested the ICF officials to ensure that these players get support and help from the Federation. Mr. Juggoo Sawhney who also accompanied me on this visit donated money from his own pocket for the construction of a shade for the players to sit under during the matches. It was indeed a great gesture on his part which all the players and officials very much appreciated.”
|The Governor of Nikshahr allocating land for cricket|
On the way back from Nikshahr, Iqbal Sikander was taken to Konarak, a small town about 35 miles from Chabahar. The Governor of Konarak had already allocated a plot of land for cricket in addition to the one already available for cricket. “The facilities at the ground that is currently being used are very basic but the interest is so immense, that they have survived all the hardships and have carried on playing the game which they dearly love,” says Iqbal Sikander. “On this occasion, ICF Vice President Dr. Rezali announced a cash donation on behalf of the ICF and Mr. Juggoo Sawhney also matched that amount from his own pocket for construction of second concrete pitch at another ground. All the officials and the players appreciated this gesture and thanked the officials for their consideration,” added Mr. Sikander.
|U-15 cricketers of Konarak|
|The Konarak senior team|
“Cricket is definitely on the up in Iran; They had a period where the Federation were a little out of touch with the ACC but somehow the cricketers kept going and it is very good to see that cricket has this basic appeal to so many Iranians,” concluded Iqbal Sikander at the end of his tour.