Bhutan’s 2011 U-19 Schools Champions Nima Higher Secondary

The fourth year of schools championships has started in Bhutan, with the U-19 event. The championships have expanded, moving from the capital Thimphu to the outlying districts. This year almost all 40 schools across four districts and 18 different tournaments are involved. The growth has been organic, based on Bhutan’s development officers literally going outside the capital with a few bats and balls over the past few years and demonstrating the merits of the game.

“The standard is better than last year. I think once we finish our coaches’ development program the standard will go higher,” says Coaching Coordinator and Youth National Coach Damber Singh Gurung. Bhutan’s model, one that has also been used to great effect in Thailand, is to use the energy and resources of schools to accelerate the uptake of cricket. “We give the children a chance to hit and bowl the ball, we give the teachers a grounding in the basics with Level 0 coaching and provide whatever equipment we can. They then come back to us asking for even more bats and balls,” says the coach. The country’s inherent lack of land sufficient to cheaply construct enough cricket pitches is also a handicap to be overcome.

Action from the U-19 Girls Schools Final between Motithang and Lungtenzampa
There are five age-group categories for the schools tournaments, which encompass girls cricket too. “Sub-junior tennis ball cricket is in pipeline,” adds Damber. The aim is to have every school in the country taking part. Next to Afghanistan, Bhutan has the highest percentage of school-age children as part of the general population.

Now that they have the numbers and momentum, the next step to sustain this development is to “improve coaches to improve players,” says the former national player Damber. The success of Bhutan’s youth teams at ACC competition has led to greater exposure and the most prominent players have quite a cult following in the country. Cricket is now on the radar of the government and there are firm indications that the country will field teams in both the men’s and women’s events at the next Asian Games.

Pictures courtesy of Bhutan Cricket Council Board

Bhutan Cricket Profile

Filed September 23rd, 2011