Thanks to some adroit lobbying by the Cricket Association of Thailand, cricket is to be the 19th discipline at next year’s ASEAN University Games. It will be the first time cricket has been featured in any form in the Games. “It’s yet another significant step in the growth of the game in the region,” says ACC Chief Executive Syed Ashraful Huq.

Cricket’s inclusion in the biennial Games came after a direct proposal to the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) was made by the Cricket Association of Thailand (CAT) with the support of the ACC. “Cricket is a rapidly growing sport among Thai teenagers,” says CAT Chief Executive and National Coach Mohideen Kader, “we felt the time was right to bring it to the University Sport Board’s attention.”

The 2010 Games are to be played in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand next December. “We offered the organisers the guarantee of two international standard grounds and full administrative support for the event,” says Mr. Kader. Moreover, CAT were instrumental in bringing all the ACC members of ASEAN (Brunei, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore) to support their application. The ASEAN University Games follows two weeks after the completion of the Asian Games in Guangzhou where cricket will be making its Asiad debut with the Test-playing countries taking part in a Twenty20 competition in a custom-built stadium.

2009 ACC Women’s Twenty20 Championship Finalists

What particularly appealed to the ASEAN University Games organisers was the fact that Myanmar for the first time in their history will be sending a representative team to these Games and it is hoped that this will open the doors for further participation by the hitherto isolated country in the biennial event. It is expected that six of ASEAN’s twelve member countries will field men’s teams in 2010, with four women’s teams also taking part. It is now hoped that the next SEA Games (the event for the senior national athletes) in 2011 will also feature cricket.

“For some time now we have been saying to our school cricketers that if they play cricket we would help them get into university. Now we can say that getting into university will enable them to play more cricket,” affirms the CAT Chief Executive. “Part of the appeal of the game has always been that it leads to a better life than if you played any other sport, that holds true and I can expect that the cricketers who represent their countries in these Games over the next decade will give plenty back to the sport because of the advantages they received from playing cricket,” says Mr. Kader. It’s the Asian Way.

Related: Thailand Country Profile

Filed Sep 1st, 2009