TUNKU IMRAN: MALAYSIAN MERITORIOUS

The 2008 Senior Squad

What about Malaysian cricket?

Malaysian cricket has been through a lot of ups and downs even in the years I’ve been involved. In the early years I wasn’t an Executive Board member, I was just involved in the selection committee and I attended the ICC meetings in London simply because I happened to be on holiday there at that time. The Malaysian Cricket Association (MCA) couldn’t send anyone and in those days everyone paid their own money and so it was just the timing. At that time the MCA was almost funded by individuals and so I happened to be there at the time and I was asked to attend. We were also suspended in the late 1980s because we didn’t submit the accounts for a few years and we really came back in 1990 when I assumed the presidency. Since then we have tried to put in some professionalism into the management and created a lot more activity than we’ve ever had. Now with the ACC and ICC supporting cricket financially, things have really improved here.

"The real challenge is to show that all Malaysians play cricket and that is a sport for all of us."

What obstacles do you feel Malaysian cricket faces in the promotion of the game?

We still need to really prove to the public and government that cricket is very much a part of the Malaysian sporting structure and that it is a sport that deserves to be supported. We need to show that cricket is good for Malaysians and ideally suited for our climate. Cricket is still looked on as a sport that has all this British connections and therefore is very colonial and not a game for the public and secondly is a sport that is associated with one ethnic group, which is, the Malaysian Indians. The real challenge is to show that all Malaysians play cricket and that is a sport for all of us.

Malaysia’s U-19 Women Cricketers, Runner’s Up in the 2008 ACC Women’s Championship

From the three communities in Malaysia we really see only Indians and Malays playing cricket. Why are the Chinese less involved?

Chinese have traditionally been strong supporters of badminton, basketball and traditional sports like wushu(martial arts). We’ve had a number of Chinese who have become international cricketers and I think promoting it to the Chinese community as a sport that they should play is something we must do. Chinese families look to academic achievements as the highest priority for their child and they see cricket as too time consuming. Now with the advent of Twenty20 we have a greater opportunity to market the sport, not only to the Chinese community but also to families who do not allow their children to spend too much of the day on sport. I believe we now have a format that we can market to these communities.

The Kinrara Oval, Kuala Lumpur

Already possessing world-class facilities, what more is needed from Malaysia for cricket to flourish here?

We have great cricketing facilities and are very good at running international competitions (Malaysia has hosted One-Day International matches and the U/19 World Cup in recent years) and now we must make sure that our own teams perform at the highest international levels and perform well. That is purely dependent on a strong domestic competitions program and that includes everything from school to club cricket to the inter-state level. We haven’t really developed this as well as we should have and this is to do with the political structure. We are a federation of states and so therefore there is a tremendous decentralization of government and administration to states and sports is organized that way as well.

ICC U/19 World Cup Tournament Organising Chairman P. Krishnasamy on stage with Tunku Imran and ICC President-elect David Morgan at the launch of the competiton, Kuala Lumpur November 2007

The problem now for a central body like the MCA is that each state has its own autonomy and all we can do is establish policy and try and encourage them to really promote the game in those states. So you will see in Malaysia some states in particular periods will be doing better than others and the reason for this depends on who is administering the state at that time. Some states have very active leagues and junior development programs and therefore perform well in the national competitions whereas others aren’t too good. We must really overcome this issue and it is a big issue in order to really ensure that we make the best possible use of our facilities so that all of Malaysia performs better.

2008 ACC Trophy Elite
Batsman of the Tournament Suhan Kumar
2008 ACC Trophy Elite
Bowler of the Tournament
Dinesh Muthuraman

How do you feel about bringing strong foreign teams to play against local teams in Malaysia?

The only way to improve in sport is to play someone better than yourself. And one way to improve is to bring strong teams here. Touring other countries is also important. We also really need to attach our younger players to domestic overseas cricket. Some Malaysian players in the 1980s went overseas and they were internationals for almost 20 years. It is important we send many of our players for attachments for a whole season to improve their individual standards. It is also important to make sure that the expatriate community play cricket, and not only the management level class, which used to be mainly the British in early days, are involved.

Back then they played very good cricket and were members of elite clubs and brought in a certain expertise to the country. Now we have a completely different expatriate group here and they are more workers, labourers and lower management. Many of them are from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and it is important to get them to play because they do play good cricket. Obviously they can’t afford the same time as the British expatriates but we need to give them the opportunities to play too and this would help promote the game to the locals.

"The more we encourage countries to use their nationals rather than their expatriates and understand that winning isn?t everything, the sooner we will see the game grow and develop."

Do you think the ACC provides the best development models for upcoming Asian cricketing nations?

I think it has taken a long time for Asian cricket to really start making waves in the international arena apart from the four Test nations. Up to now, it has only been the UAE that has been carrying the flag of the Asian Associates into the World Cup. Afghanistan is a great example as to why the rules of qualification should change for individuals to qualify for their country. They are a 100% Afghan side and too many other countries have relied on their expatriates to play for them under the deemed national rule. It is only Afghanistan, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand and a few others that have full nationals and it is important for us to understand that as a policy.

The more we encourage countries to use their nationals rather than their expatriates and understand that winning isn?t everything, the sooner we will see the game grow and develop. When you are playing for your country of original birth it is definitely different to when you are playing for your country of adoption and then you leave because you?re only there temporarily. If, at the junior levels, we ensure this happens then it will be a greater opportunity for Asian nations to move forward.

"The only way to improve in sport is to play someone better than yourself."

Is the ACC doing enough for these countries?

The ACC, like every organization and we in Malaysia have the same issue – it is funding. You can only do as much as the funding permits. What the ACC has done, which I think is very commendable and I’m sure we are ahead of the other regions, is that we’ve produced a lot of competitions for our members.  Now that competitions are split into Elite and Challenge groups, this is going to be very good for the game. This is because it is important to have a focus on international competitions and like I said earlier, you can only improve if you’re playing better cricket. The earlier mismatches are now eradicated and therefore the cricket is more competitive and I hope this tier structure remains. The regular competitions mean that the national cricket associations have to train their teams for these competitions often and these are very competitive in both groupings.

How important is governance in the development of the game?

I feel governance is crucial. Without good governance you really can’t run a national association. As part of governance it is important to ensure that one elects the people that have the passion for the sport, the people who are willing to sacrifice their time, effort and sometimes even money. We need to get these people on board but we still see administrators who get into top positions to be recognized or even reap and exploit the benefits which are very unfortunate. Therefore one needs more selfless leaders who have a love for the game in order for associations to be successful. Good governance also means following the rules and constitution and I feel integrity tops the list there.

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