TUNKU IMRAN: MALAYSIAN MERITORIOUS

What more can the ACC do to further help the countries?

Obviously Asia is a huge continent and we have the most number of members. Although Europe has a lot of members, they are very compact whereas we have vast territories. We must keep going at the junior levels and encourage competitions and there should perhaps be more persuasion of the Full members in developing Associate members and they should play against the top Associates more often. The inclusion of cricket in the Asian Games was an important development. We have to continue to ensure that it is a good competition and that the sport remains a part of the Asian Games because it can only get better. If, somehow, there is a greater financial assistance in getting good coaches into various countries it would be a real boost.

Afghanistan, Oman and UAE recently played for places in the next World Cup. Why isn’t Malaysia competing at that level?

It is partly because of our policy in selection where we only really select Malaysian nationals. There is no reliance on expatriate input although we have a few deemed nationals. But like I have said, we need a stronger domestic scenario. It is not competitive enough for the top players to get a good game in every game they play. There are too many mismatches in our system and we’re thinking as to how we can overcome this. We have 13 state affiliates which is fantastic on one hand but if you are trying to establish inter-state competitions you have this enormous difference in standards. We have tried playing different divisions but it is still not competitive enough.

We have talented players and it is shown in the junior levels; the U-15s and U-17s do well in ACC tournaments. This, though, has not carried into the senior squad and therein lies the problem. We also lose a lot of good players because of the job market. We are developing a lot of juniors but they don’t sustain themselves into the senior level. We probably need a situation, which goes back to funding, where we can actually employ the cricketers.

"I just love sport. "

It is a fact that we have to create a culture for the sport to establish cricket as part of the Malaysian cricket diaspora. One of our goals is to establish cricket as a major team sport in Malaysia and once that happens then you are going to get sponsors and the money coming in.

With Deputy Chairman and CEO of HSBC Bank Malaysia in 2006 Zarir Cama

Much like Afghanistan and Pakistan’s shared cricketing relationship – how much does Malaysia miss having that closeness to a Test-playing nation?

It would be huge if we had that type of a situation. Our players would naturally play as part of domestic league in a full member country. Unfortunately, geographically, we’re a long way away. My original vision was that the countries of South-East Asia would together raise their standards and create a group of sorts. We used to have a tournament called the Tuanku Ja’afar series which was named after my father where we had an U-13, U-15, U-19 and senior team playing once a year with each other. Each country would host one of those tournaments every year and it was very successful. Unfortunately, the ICC and ACC tournaments came in and there were too many tournaments happening then and it came back to the management of the finances. That was a good development program for the regions and it would’ve been a good model for ACC to work on.

Western Australia Cricket Association CEO Graeme Wood (L) and Tunku Imran exchange documents at the MoU signing between the MCA and WACA in the presence of Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia Penny Williams, July 2008

Asia is huge, so to fly from Hong Kong to Kuwait or UAE just costs a lot. The ACC should also encourage sub-region tournaments where the Gulf countries have their own U-13 or U-15 tournaments so there’s not so much travel involved. Hence there is a development that goes on and the costs are reduced and so the U-13s and U-15s are already getting international exposure without having to travel huge distances and the ACC is not having to fork out large sums of money.

Being involved in sport for such a long time – what do you draw your inspiration from?

I draw inspiration from the fact that I just love sport. It is a love for all sport and is probably inculcated by my father who was also a great sportsman and a very good cricketer, tennis, squash, badminton, football and hockey player. It’s really about me enjoying my sport so much when I was young that I feel I need to put something back and it is really rewarding putting something back into something you love. This has kept me going and to see progress wherever I am is rewarding.

When I was on the ICC board for so many years and as a chairman of the Associate members we worked really hard to make sure the money came our way and that it was spent properly. It was also my idea about the World Cricket League and that it should be formed. There was quite a lot of resistance initially but we finally established it and now its going well and more divisions are being created. My original vision for that was to have ten divisions of six (currently there are seven divisions) and there itself you’d have 60 countries in the league and it would continue to expand. There is only way in the end to gauge a country’s standard and that is to test them in a world competition.

 

What is your long term vision for Malaysian cricket?

A realistic vision would be to one day see Malaysia qualify for a World Cup and over time that is possible. It is very important that now we’re in the World Cricket League (Division 6) we start moving up and like Afghanistan progress and improve the situation. I’d like to see us being up there and recognized as one of the top Associate countries, not just in terms of what we do in organizing competitions and our facilities but to create waves at international levels with our on-field performances.

Umpires take the field in the golden light of Penang

Related: Malaysia Profile

Filed April 20, 2009