Cricket Expert Views
Opportunities aplenty for aspiring female cricketers post evolution of the game - India A all rounder Tejal Hasabnis
In a cricket crazy country like India, it was only a matter of time before the Indian women’s team began to get the recognition they deserve for their accomplishments. Cricketers such as Shafali Raj, Smriti Mandhana, Mithali Raj, Harmanpreet Kaur and Deepti Sharma to name a few have elevated the sport to new heights and have inspired the next generation of girls to take up the bat or ball and make their dreams come true.
One such cricketer is 24 year old Tejal Hasabnis who is a talented all rounder representing the India A team. In this exclusive interview with SPOGO, she speaks about her journey so far and what motivated her to pursue cricket professionally, overcoming hardships and challenges, the most memorable moments from her career so far, spreading awareness about COVID-19 and her future goals and aspirations.
Q 1) How did you start your journey in playing cricket and what motivated you to take this sport professionally?
I have always been into sports since school and I remember playing different sports during summer vacation. All the boys in my society used to play cricket during the summer and I used to watch them from my balcony. One day I went down and asked them if I could play. They agreed and were very supportive. At that time, I did not know how to hold a bat etc. I was connecting the ball well, so after the game got over they taught me how to hold the bat and the basics. From then onwards I used to play with them during every holiday and would eagerly wait for Sundays to get the opportunity to play.
What I do remember about gully cricket is that my school exams would usually start on Monday’s which meant the Sunday before the exams was annoying because my mom wanted me to study but I wanted to play. We made a deal where I would play cricket from 10:30 am to 1 pm and after lunch, I would study without taking a nap. Back then, I didn’t know about professional cricket.
The Pune District Association organized an inter-school women’s tennis ball tournament and it was easy for me to score big runs because I was used to playing with the boys. I was selected for the district team because of that performance and attended the state camp in the same year. As I enjoyed playing cricket, I was enrolled into coaching with a proper leather ball and that’s how my journey as a professional began. Cricket has not just made me a better player but it has also made me stronger and wiser and my drive has kept me motivated.
Q 2) You can shine with a ball as well as a bat. How do you balance between both since there are very few all-rounders in the game?
Being an all-rounder is challenging as it takes a toll both physically and mentally. Maintaining a good diet and managing our skills is very important to balance both and it’s immensely satisfying to contribute more to your team and makes all the hard work worth it.
Q 3) What are some hardships/challenges you have faced in your career, how did you overcome them?
One of the most challenging things for me was to accept and adapt to the changes and uncertainties of sports such as being injured, not getting selected, having a bad patch etc. These are realities that hit you hard but it’s important to know how to pick yourself up and keep going with the same focus and a positive attitude. My close friends and family have played a very crucial role in giving me a healthy environment where I can be myself and give my best everyday. When I look back, I’m grateful for my journey and all those moments that helped me grow.
Also read: Where I am today is because of people around me: India’s 20 year old cricket star Jemimah Rodrigues
Q 4) What are some of your most memorable moments in cricket?
There are a few memories that are very close to my heart, winning the Emerging Asia Cup is one of them. I will always cherish wearing the blue Indian jersey and contributing to the team's success
Q 5) What changes do you want to see in women's cricket in India as well as in the world?
Over the years, women’s cricket has adapted and changed and it will continue to do so. It’s very different from when I started and some of the changes have been very positive and motivating. I would love to see women’s cricket getting more recognition as it will help aspiring cricketers to pursue the sport professionally.
Q 6) You have also worked with an NGO to spread awareness during COVID-19, what inspired you to do that?
When I was in school, I read a quote “I always wonder why somebody doesn’t do something about that, then I realized I was somebody.” It really hit me hard, as a society we want things to change for the better but very few of us are willing to change our habits and work for it. It motivated me and I’ve been associated with various social workers groups since a young age. Whenever I’m in Pune, I join them and participate in various activities. My parents have inspired me to do this as I’ve always seen them work hard selflessly.
Q 7) What are your future goals and aspirations and how do you plan to accomplish them?
My ultimate goal is to help the Indian women’s cricket team lift the World Cup and I have short term plans to make it a reality. I’m working on my skills, fitness, the mental and tactical aspects of my game to improve myself. I want to enjoy this process and let the outcome take care of itself.
Physically challenged female cricketers have the potential to achieve accolades at the highest level - Nitendra Singh, Head of Cricket Operations at DCCBI
The beauty about sports is that it unites people, it brings together entire communities rooting for a common cause. It has the power to empower and transform the lives of others in a manner very rarely seen. Sports for the disabled is not just a recreation activity, it’s a way of life for those that are not blessed with equal opportunity, it’s a path towards a life of dignity and self respect despite their limitations, it’s inspirational beyond belief and an important lesson about being able to achieve anything if you set your mind to it.
In this exclusive interview with SPOGO, Mr. Nitendra Singh, Head of Cricket Operations at Divyang Cricket Control Board of India speaks about getting adequate support for physically challenged cricketers, their potential, overcoming challenges, the role of media, government and his future goals.
Q 1) As Head of Cricket Operations at DCCBI, do you get adequate support from the likes of BCCI for physically challenged cricketers?
At present there is no support from BCCI but we're trying to get support. I'm hopeful that we'll soon get help from the BCCI. Some organizations like Indian Oil corporation and PSU's are helping. Even the Baroda Cricket Association which runs the domestic team of Baroda are helping me because I played a lot of first class cricket for the Baroda team.
Q 2) As head coach of Indian Physically Challenged Women Cricket Team, do you see a lot of potential in our female cricketers to achieve accolades at the highest level?
Physically challenged girls have got tremendous potential. They want to prove to people that they are nothing less than normal men or women and they concentrate on their game. In 2019, I organized the world's first coaching camp for physically challenged girls and you wouldn't believe nearly 80 girls turned up from all over India and I formed the world's first physically challenged girls team. They definitely have the potential to achieve accolades at the highest level and it is my opinion that they are better than the men's team. They work very hard and learn very easily. DCCBI's general secretary Haroon Rashid is a very energetic person and he is taking a lot of interest in it and our CEO Ghazal Khan is also a brilliant woman. She has got a lot of knowledge about IT and in today's world IT knowledge is essential. She is doing exactly what needs to be done.
Q 3) What are some of the challenges that you have faced at DCCBI? How did you overcome them?
The primary challenge is the sponsorship, somehow we are getting the necessary sponsorships. Mr. Haroon Rashid is trying his level best and some more people like me are also trying. We are giving good facilities to the physically challenged players. Recently the first DPL was held in Sharjah which is the stadium where the IPL is also played. Our boys have proved that they are no less than the normal people. It was a very good tournament and an incredible achievement for the players as well as the DCCBI.
Q 4) According to you, how can the government, media and corporations help in supporting Divyang cricket?
At present the media can play a vital role and the Government of India is conducting other sports but not cricket at any level. Cricket is run by the BCCI which oversees all forms of cricket including Men’s cricket, Women’s cricket, Divyang cricket which includes the deaf, physically challenged, blind and other types of cricket. The government should help the Divyang sportspersons. Our PM Modi gave a title ‘Divyang’ which has all the disabilities under it whether they are blind, deaf, physically challenged or any other disability. It is easier now for people to recognize us, especially when we are in need of sponsorship from a company. Government is giving opportunities and jobs to the people in Divyang and now has to think more diversely for their future.
Q 5) What are your goals and ambitions for Divyang cricket in the future? How do you plan to accomplish them?
At present Mr. Haroon Rasheed is going to organise a four nation tournament of physically challenged in Dubai in the same stadium, after that we are planning for the Asia cup and the World Cup. We will do it, if the BCCI helps us it is well and good but I'm hopeful that the BCCI will help us because they need results and we are giving them results.
Also read: My goal is to make physically challenged cricketers financially strong and give them equal opportunities
Our motive is to help discover the most talented cricketers in India - Himalaya Sharma, M.D at T10 Grassroots Cricketers Association
For any country to become a sporting nation, a robust grassroots program is the foundation on which the rest is built upon. Sports have the power to transform, empower and uplift lives but only when it’s a viable career option accessible to all. Despite India being a cricket country nation, the overwhelming competition and the ‘race’ to make it to the top often leaves many diamonds in the rough undiscovered because they’re never given a platform to showcase their talent.
In this exclusive interview with SPOGO, Mr. Himalaya Sharma, Managing Director at T10 Grassroots Cricketers Association speaks about their goals, coaching development program, giving exposure, strengthening the grassroots and future goals.
Q 1) How is the T10 Grassroots Cricketers Association of India developing the sport at the grassroots? What is the non-profit organization’s goal and vision?
T10 Grassroots Cricketers Association is a Non-Profit Delhi, India based organization founded by Mr. Tapan Sarkar established on 31st July 2020. This company is registered under Company Act 2013 under Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India.
The group mainly focuses on Grassroot Cricket all over the globe. It is often seen that young athletes don’t get a fair deal to show up their talent due to high competition & so many other factors. The group has been working hard for the same cause for 7 years now and has worked out events really well at all levels especially nationally and internationally. TGCA totally believes in nourishing the young talent and bringing raw and talented ones in front so that they should know the value of becoming a mentor in future.
Developing Cricket not only in India but worldwide to motivate today’s players in different parts of the world to start or join a club, become part of a team and endeavor to become champions of their national domestic cricket league to receive an invite to the big International Championship.
We will create heroes of today's grassroot cricketers by giving them the T10 platform to shine on the world stage. We want to Inspire parents to involve their children, at a young age, in local cricket communities so they can aspire to one day play in the T10 Club level games and national teams.
We want to ensure the TGCA objective is clear (It is grassroot level development for cricketers looking for a chance to show up their talent at International Level), credible (only the National domestic champion team can play) and entertaining (the fantastically action packed T10 format).
Q 2) Tell us more about the sponsorship programmes, international players exchange program and coaching development program that is being planned by T10 Grassroots Cricketers Association of India?
We will conduct coach exchange program as well where junior coaches will be trained under senior coaches, a selection test will be conducted at the end of the course and coaches will be sent to different countries to train players at school, university, academy or at club level and also learn new technique of that country which he/she can apply to their respective countries as well which will help players to learn some new & advance technique.
We will conduct a player exchange program within member countries so that every player will get a chance to play in different countries and in different conditions and learn all fundamentals of Cricket, this program will help to play against different players with different skills.
Our member countries can conduct cricket events, cricket camps and can invite other countries for bilateral, triangular and even organize big events by inviting other countries which will be part of sports tourism and good source of generating revenue.
Also read: Opening match of The Hundred sets UK record for women's cricket
Q 3) How does the organization aim to give exposure to cricketers in their roster to play in foreign soil under different conditions and give cricketers a platform to showcase their talent?
Our motive is not to create any parallel cricket board of any country but our main motive is to work for the official cricket board by helping them in finding the best talented players for their country with help of T-10 format and other development programs. We will encourage everyone to respect their country’s official cricket board as they will only have the right to provide better chances and opportunities to play for the national side.
Q 4) What are the steps that T10 Grassroots Cricketers Association of India is taking to strengthen the grassroots of the sport to ensure India remains a cricket superpower in the future?
We will create opportunities for Grassroots Cricketers by organizing events at Domestic and International level so that everyone gets a fair chance to represent their country at the international level.
We will invite the official cricket board of the country/ Clubs/ Organization to join hands with us and help their country’s grassroots level cricket to grow by giving them a competitive environment and opportunity to play against other countries at international level.
We will help the official cricket board of the country to provide them with the best talent through our program so that it will become easy for them to pick the best player for their national side or junior team.
We are also coming up with so many development programs for men, women, junior and disable players so that it will create equal opportunities for all gender and all age players.
Q 5) What are the future goals of T10 Grassroots Cricketers Association of India? How does the organization plan to achieve them?
As a responsible organization we will help players and community members to work as a team around the world and help cricket to grow and provide the best talent for their country and make a strong team for their National side.
In our second phase of the development program, we will introduce a Franchise based T-10 event worldwide where talent from our member countries will get a chance to nominate their players.
TGCA will help in getting investors to develop cricket academies, cricket infrastructure and other facilities wherever it will be required on profit sharing basis
Brampton Premier League is providing a platform for Canadian cricketers to excel in the sport - BPL Founder Mickey Malhotra
For a country known for its breathtaking beauty, an ultra-competitive ice hockey culture, maple syrup and politeness, an indoor cricket league is something you would not associate with Canada. In retrospect, the country is a blend of cultures and sports is one of those rare tools that unites them all. As one of the fastest growing indoor cricket leagues in Ontario, Brampton Premier League is the first of its kind and is setting its sights on achieving new heights.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Mickey Malhotra, founder of BPL Canada speaks about the inspiration behind it, highlights of the league so far, supporting athletes and clubs, future of indoor cricket and his goals for the future!
Q 1) BPL Canada is one of the fastest growing indoor cricket leagues in Ontario, tell us what inspired you to come up with this league in a country where cricket isn’t that popular?
Many people are not aware that cricket here was first introduced in Canada by the British and the first ever international cricket game was played by Canada vs USA in New York in the year of 1844, which was won by Canada. BPL started with humble beginnings, in 2010 I was in Napier, New Zealand learning cricket from my coach Brendon Bracewell, who is John Bracewell’s brother, both played at the highest level for New Zealand, Brendon was my first coach who introduced me to indoor cricket. Club cricket is usually played on Saturday’s and Sunday’s are rest days. A couple of the lads were like let’s go to the indoor sports centre, it was called Action Sports. In 2016, I was training with Darren Lehmann cricket academy in Adelaide, so a couple of friends invited me to come and play for their team as they were short on players. The dream started to evolve and when at the start of the very first over of BPL on November 25th 2017, one of our express fast bowlers broke a stump into half by getting the batsman bowled, it just felt right! In our culture, we crack open a coconut to give it good luck and it was like our coconut had cracked! (Laughs)
Q 2) What was the initial response to it and what have been the highlights of the league’s journey so far?
The initial response was positive as it was for players to play in their club bio bubble during the winter months. I was playing for Mississauga Ramblers back then, within the club, 3 franchises signed up and we invited rival clubs within Toronto district cricket association to come join our magical journey to becoming one the first professional indoor cricket league in North America. I think in terms of the commercial aspect our highlight would be, Nando’s Chicken coming on as a title sponsor elevated our status in sponsorships for our 3rd year.
Q 3) Tell us more about the teams in the league and what are the preparations involved ahead of every season?
Our BPL Canada motto is Uniting Communities Together, Canada is a very multicultural country and we want to create a family environment among our players and franchise owners as BPL welcomes all nationalities and genders. Our role in the community has increased over the years, when politician’s MP Iqra Khalid and MPP Kaleed Rasheed have given us the support by either playing or supporting at our events. We feel honoured and blessed to create a professional indoor cricket league with 19 indoor cricket league franchises. BPL has 12 men, 4 juniors and 3 women franchises. Our next league will be held next winter of 2021/2022 season with 12 franchises, 9 men’s franchises and 3 women’s franchises competing for the BPL championship in their respective division.
Q 4) You are the Founder & CEO of Royal Sponsorships, tell us about the work being done by your organization in supporting athletes and sports clubs?
Royal Sponsorships was found out of a problem, most of the finest start-ups in the world are trying to fix a problem. The problem is that not enough companies are aware of sponsorship opportunities they can create in the sport of cricket, especially in Canada. Also, we figured players should be benefited monetarily along with the clubs, Royal Sponsorships was born out of a necessity to provide sponsorships to cricket clubs, cricket leagues, cricket players anywhere in the world through working closely with local businesses.
Q 5) What do you think is the future of indoor cricket and in your opinion, can it be as competitive as the outdoor one?
Future of indoor cricket in Canada is very bright! BPL Canada will be competing in international indoor cricket tournaments in the future, BPL will create a platform for quality athletes to join our forces and make a name for their country and themselves! For us, country will always be our number 1 priority, we want to take Canada to the international map for indoor cricket.
Q 6) What are your goals and aspirations with BPL Canada for the future and how do you plan to achieve them?
BPL Canada’s goals and aspirations are simple, to create a platform for Canadian and International cricket players to excel in the sport. Our focus is strengthening grassroots cricket and organizing cricket tours to various countries to improve the standard of our players.
I want to inspire more girls and women in Germany to play cricket - Anuradha Doddaballapur, German women’s cricket team captain
Do you know what’s a common theme amongst all superheroes? They live dual lives, one vastly different from the other but they still excel at both. Take Superman for example, his alter ego Clarke Kent is a journalist for the Daily Planet and an ultra strong superhero when things get rough. Similarly, Bruce Wayne (Batman) is a billionaire playboy who is a cape crusader at night. In the real world, being a superhero as showcased in comics may be impossible, but every now and again, you will cross paths with an individual who is as close to a ‘real’ superhero as there can be.
In this exclusive interview with SPOGO, Ms. Anuradha Doddaballapur, captain of Germany’s womens’ cricket team and a cardiovascular scientist speaks about balancing her two roles, creating history, overcoming challenges, coaching experiences, future goals and more!
Q 1) When were you first introduced to cricket and what motivated you to take up the sport professionally?
This goes back a long time, like every other kid growing up in India you are exposed to a lot of cricket either playing with your neighbours or friends on the street in the backyard along with watching a lot of cricket on TV and that's how I started. I wouldn't say professionally but a bit more seriously, I had a friend who used to play for the Karnataka side and she kind of lured me into going into a few training sessions and that's how I got introduced to a more formal coaching or training setup which was around 1998 or 99 and that's how it started and there was no looking back since.
Q 2) As the German women’s cricket team captain and a cardiovascular scientist, how do you balance the two and excel at both?
It's difficult most of the time, because you have only 24 hours to do both in a day but I'm equally passionate about both - what I'm doing professionally in terms of scientific research and cricket also has been a part of my life for almost two decades. You just have to make time, it gets hard because you have a full time job which is not necessarily a 9-5 one, it's a lot more demanding. Cricket almost seeps into every bit of spare time outside what I do at work so it's mostly weekends or training after work. It's hard but you have to try and make time. Excelling in both, I think that's a bit more relative. There are phases where you are good at one and not so much at the other but it depends on how much time you can dedicate for both. So far things have been going well and I'm very grateful for that.
Q 3) You’re the first female cricketer in the history of international cricket to take four wickets off four balls. How proud are you of that accomplishment?
I am very proud, I think it's a nice statistic to have, being the first in anything is always very special and I'm glad that I got to share it with the team. We were playing in Austria and it changed a lot of things for us as a team in terms of recognition and putting German Cricket on the map and the visibility we got through, that is great as I always say that tour was really exceptional for us. There were so many records made from the girls in our team and mine just happens to be one of those. It's a bit bizarre now thinking about it, everything that followed and the impact that it has had, it's been pretty cool and very special.
Q 4) What are some of the challenges that you faced as a female cricketer looking to pursue the sport in a country where cricket is not popular?
I think the challenges - not as a female cricketer but as a cricketer in a place where it isn’t so popular - all come down to poor infrastructure at club levels or regional levels. I’ve played cricket in India and in England and if I was to compare them to Germany it isn’t anywhere close. We lack access to good facilities, so if you really want to be an elite player and put in the hours, access to facilities and coaches is still on the rise.
As athletes, the visibility of the sport and the recognition of cricket as a proper sport is probably only catching up now. We are always explaining what cricket is to the locals and I hope that changes in the years to come. Personally, now that I am involved in the administrative aspect of everything and having coached my local team I feel that for me as a player it is challenging for me to find time and work on my own game. I end up volunteering a lot in my spare time for the development of the game, so that is a challenge I face more on a personal level. The development gets hampered a little bit.
Q 5) What led you to create the Frankfurt Women’s Cricket team in 2015? How has the experience of coaching been so far?
It has been great so far and a journey on it’s own. When I moved to Frankfurt, there was no women’s team at the club that I’m currently playing. I played in the men’s league for a few years and the closest women's team was in Cologne, so I would travel and play the matches with them but practice with the men’s side here and play in the league. I think at a point in time I just thought, might as well think of developing and starting a women’s team.
There were two of us here in Frankfurt playing a little bit with the national squad. We took that up as a development project and I’ve been involved with that ever since. I double up as the development officer at the club, so I’m into recruiting players, promoting the sport, organising events and fixtures. Along with that once we had players there had to be someone to coach and train them and there were no coaches hired by the club, so all of that too came with the job of starting a team. Over the course of time I got my qualifications. I am currently studying my ECB level-3.
It’s been a great experience and it's something we learn continuously as a coach, having to catch up with methodology so we know how to work with people and how you develop players holistically, forming your own coaching philosophy. It’s been a very interesting journey and I’m enjoying that. It’s amazing but a bit of a challenge as I said earlier about being an active player and also the captain of the national team, there are a lot of responsibilities.
I am not the only one doing everything by myself. There are a couple other girls who are active players and take up coaching as well. We do our best to grow the game and give back and for me I’d say in the last few years I’ve gained so much from cricket over the last two decades. Over time there was a switch where I felt I needed to give back more to the game, so for me coaching and working as a development officer has been a great opportunity to realize that.
With the set up that we have now at Frankfurt in the past 5 or 6 years, we've had some great results as well. Over time we've had some 60-70 girls and women who are now part of the club, either training with us or playing in the league with us, involved in some way or other which is great for a club that has existed for 40 years and had no women’s section. I'm very proud of the opportunities we’ve been able to create. We now have 4-5 girls from here who represent the national team. We have also won a few indoor championships some 2-3 years in a row. We were runner’s up in the last Bundesliga that happened, so it bore fruit and that is very rewarding for all the effort that we have put in. I am really happy that there are so many young girls and women now that can take up the sport and enjoy it as much as I do and as much as so many of us do. It’s heartwarming to see what has come out of it all.
Q 6) What are your goals and aspirations for the future? How do you plan to achieve them?
As the current captain of the national squad I’d love to see our team do better. We’ve been doing fantastic in the last two years and I hope we keep that up. The performance, development and everything else that we do together, I hope it all grows into something positive. We are currently 25th in the world rankings and T20s are the only matches we play as of now. I want to see us in the top 10-15 ranking. It’s a big ask, so we have to go in close cooperation with the board and what they bring to the table in terms of funding and infrastructure and how often we can play games. Right now, we are playing the regional qualifiers in the European division. In the next few years I want us to top that and play in the global event as well. I would love to see that for the team.
Individually as a player, I'm always hungry to perform better everytime I take to the field, so I want to churn out more and more good performances for the squad. I think it would be awesome to see any of the German players in any of the female franchise cricket tournaments that are happening currently on the globe. That would be a great opportunity and it’s a long wait before we reach that level. We have to do more for the visibility of the sport, for the players and the commitments that they have shown over the years. I think they do deserve opportunities like that so that would be great to see.
All of our national players are doing very well and setting a great standard for other people that want to take up the sport. I think I say on behalf of the team when I say we want to inspire more young girls and women in Germany to play the sport. Hopefully we are able to make cricket a household name here. We’ll see how we achieve that and a lot of it depends on infrastructure and funding for the sport. Most people who play cricket in Germany have to volunteer to do the development work and so there are a lot of time constraints. How great would it be if in the next few years, players could take cricket up professionally and do very well? I would love that.
Our vision is to develop cricket at the grassroots and enable participation - Madan Raj Rajagopal, Founder and CEO at Ludimos
In the ultra-competitive world of sports, teams are always looking for that edge, however miniscule it may be because it makes a world of difference in the final result. For some, that may be in the form of new and revolutionary training methods, for others it may be the use of technology through data driven analysis and tracking player performance.
Let’s delve into a platform that is giving cricket clubs and academies that ‘edge’ by learning about Ludimos from its Founder and CEO, Mr. Madan Raj Rajagopal. In this exclusive interview with SPOGO, he spoke about what inspired him to create this platform, it’s features, impact, expanding to other sports and future goals.
Q 1) As founder of Ludimos, what inspired you to create a video analysis platform for cricket coaches?
I think in 2018, there were a couple of events that inspired me to pursue this journey. Firstly, being a cricketer myself, I played for a local club here and when my performance was poor, we went back to basics and used video analysis to help me out as a player. While I was consuming the technology, it wasn't that effective because of so many other things that come with the analysis and I saw a huge gap that exists between the current technology and what's actually needed by a coach or a player and that inspired me to basically explore this further and then come up with the idea of Ludimos, where we want to built the most efficient video analysis platform in the world that is powered by AI.
Q 2) What sets Ludimos apart from other similar platforms? What are some of the features cricket clubs and academies can benefit from by using Ludimos?
Cricket takes time, when you train it takes time, when you bat it takes time. One of the biggest problems coaches face right now is that they need more time to review data and since the game has evolved a lot, at the highest level everything is driven by data and insight. They have analysts who give minute information like where they can improve their skills and a lot more. That trend however has not caught up within the grassroot development area. It's primarily because data is useful but capturing, maintaining and analysing such a huge amount of data is difficult. That's where our key and unique selling point comes in, which is Ludimos AI. Whenever a player or coach captures a training footage of a session or a player, our AI automatically analyses the video and it first creates highlights. Highlights are just the actions of the players playing a shot or a bowler bowling a ball and it makes small snippets of each shot of three seconds automatically. This feature alone saves 80% of the video analysis time for coaches, which if you add up on a monthly basis we save about two hours of coaching and analysis time for every coach on pure video analysis alone.
It's not the time saving aspect but what enables it is that coaches can now observe four to five times more data points of the same player at the same time which means they can identify mistakes sooner and assist the players much faster, which accelerates the player development process as whole. With this particular feature, several clubs, academies and even schools across the world trust Ludimos and use it to document a players journey over a period of time to compare how a player evolved from point A to point B and also see which drills were effective in shaping up a players skills over a period of time. In addition to this, we also have a smart feedback and notes taking system, where coaches can either using their voice as voice notes can leave a feedback as a text note or a drawing and in this way, coaches can dissect the areas of improvement or areas of a player in a more minute detailed manner and share that with the player within the platform without the need to use any other tool like whatsapp, email or other channels making it seamless and simple to use.
Q 3) Who are some of the cricket clubs and academies that are currently using Ludimos? How much of an impact has the platform made so far?
We have more than a hundred clubs, academies and schools registered across the globe hence naming a few doesn't make sense. We have clubs from the States, Ireland, Scotland, UK and a few other countries in Europe. We are also present in academies in India and Australia who are clients with Ludimos and the key benefit that they receive is basically documenting the player's journey over a period of time. These coaches want their players to improve and understand what's going right and what's going wrong and act upon a personalized plan. There are other platforms out there which you have to do a lot of manual work to get this but because we make it so simple for a coach and player to get in touch and communicate and get the right feedback going on, that's the actual benefit that we bring in. In addition to that, coaches get more data points and it means that they can observe things that one would typically miss in a coaching session or a group session but because everything is documented, you don't have to remember everything all the time so you can always go back into the point of time see what and why it happened which means that players are not under this trend where typically, a coach explains something verbally and that information is forgotten in a few days and weeks time and the coach has to repeat the same thing over and over again. With Ludimos, because the information is documented and is present all the time, coaches and players can always go back in time, take a look at what happened and at the same time work on it which helps them develop faster and that's the benefits these academies have had so far using the Ludimos.
Q 4) As there are many countries such as Serbia, Argentina, Germany and Netherlands that are using Ludimos, do you believe it will help these countries catch up to other countries such as India or Australia quicker?
It’s a tricky question to answer. In a way yes, if you look at the journey of any developing nation it always comes from the talent itself. Talent is what empowers a country to be effective at such a high level. Countries like Netherlands, Scotland and Ireland all have such a good pathway system where they can have a pool of talent and new players coming in and from there you train them, groom them and pick the right ones and nurture them. Then they go on to play for a national team. It takes a certain amount of time and effort to do that. What Ludimos is trying to do is to assist these coaches and players in such a way that it takes away a lot of the manual effort and replaces it with smartness. That would also encourage the players to enjoy Ludimos.
One of the key troubles with other countries’ players is that they start to drop off after certain years. They stop playing cricket or they choose a different sport like football or hockey. What it usually comes down to is that they either lose interest or there is only so much progress you can make with such a sport. Our solution to that is that we give them a new way of learning cricket which is fun and interactive where they can also track their progress over time with data driven facts and insights. Beyond that we give access to coaches that they otherwise don't have access to.
Ludimos is a digital platform so you can log in from anywhere in the world and connect with any coach in the world that you would like to learn from. Then you can improve your game up to the limit of your choosing. If you do that on a massive scale, then the talent pool is bound to grow. Once that pool grows, with the amount of interest that people have, competitiveness grows. Then, the countries themselves will have better players to compete against higher level cricket teams, the answer to your question is yes. It will take some time but we are assisting them to make it happen in a smart and simple way to reach there.
Q 5) Would you ever consider expanding Ludimos to other sports as well? If yes, which other sports would be considered first?
The short answer is yes. The technology stack that we have developed is compatible with other sports. Our ideal choice is tennis, baseball, golf and hockey. However cricket is such a complex game and it requires so many different types of analysis and insights which is why we will be busy for the next few years working on cricket and if the opportunity arrives then we would venture into tennis, baseball, golf and hockey.
Q 6) What are your goals for Ludimos in the future? How would you like to achieve them?
My vision for the future is that whenever a player thinks about cricket, they think about a bat, a ball and other equipment and Ludimos will be a part of their cricketing journey. We envision Ludimos to play an active role in developing the game at the grassroot level and enabling participation.
There are multiple strategies to achieve that, but one of the key areas where we need help right now is brand ambassadors. At present we are looking for talented players and innovative coaches, or coaches that are looking for a competitive edge to start using our platform. People that would help spread the word and advocate our technology across the sports space. That would help a lot to get our name out in the cricketing fraternity and for them to believe that we are helping both players and coaches be effective and impactful.
That’s really all from the marketing point of view and from a technological point of view we are investing a lot in our innovation department. We are exploring several new and cutting edge technologies in order to promote deep learning. All this extracts information from videos alone so that you don't have to buy any separate sensors, which may be expensive or not available in some countries. However, if you have a smartphone or a computer, our technology will capture and deliver insides that can be computed just from video frames. There are two key areas we are investing in to make our vision a reality, marketing and technology.
Our aim is to create an indigenous brand that is renowned across the world for its quality - Arindam Aggarwal, M.D at A2 Cricket
In a country like India where cricket is a religion, a cricket bat is more than just a piece of wood that is used while playing. For many, it’s the ultimate gift of passion, a license to follow their dreams of making it in the cricketing world and an acknowledgement of one’s skill and talent. Some of the most iconic bats, such as Sachin Tendulkar’s MRF, Ricky Ponting’s Kookaburra Kahuna, MS Dhoni’s Reebok Centurian are viewed less as ‘tools’ or ‘sporting gear’ and more as an extension of the player themselves. For those who look up to their favourite cricket players, playing with the same bat is a fantasy that will make them more like their idols.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Arindam Aggarwal, Managing Director at A2 Cricket speaks about what started it all, Mithali Raj as brand ambassador, overcoming challenges, future goals and more!
Q 1) You have established a successful business at a relatively young age, what about crafting cricket bats led you to start A2 Cricket?
It's quite a long story to be honest, I've been a professional cricketer for quite some time. I played cricket for more than 10 to 15 years, and in my team I was always the one who would handpick the bats for my friends and I was the one repairing them. I used to travel to different factories and I used to be a bat collector, long before I even thought about starting my own business.
I'm a mechanical engineer from the University of Bristol. The plan was to continue in that direction and go for Masters and do something in the automotive industry but, what struck me was when I was playing in the UK. I was using the bat for 10,000 Rupees and when I went to one of the shops for repair work, I saw that a similar quality of cricket bats was priced at around 200 pounds - 300 Pounds, which equates to 20 to 30,000 Rupees and that really stayed with me. The same product is being sold for way too much money and most of it is made right here in India.
I started to research cricket bats on my own time, just for fun. I was really passionate and I used to collect bats from around the world. The major problem was that the Britishers would call the Indian products ‘cheap Asian imports’, That’s really interesting because most of the cricket equipment that we see around the globe and on TV is made in India and a lot of foreign brands that claim to be made in England or Australia, really are made in India..
In my second year in college, I got an internship at a very big company which I ended up leaving very quickly because I couldn't do it. I didn’t see myself in a job position, working under someone else. That was the very day that I was looking at cricket bat videos and topics related to that. On a whim, I told my parents I’m going to start my own cricket brand. They just said, ‘Fair enough.’
The next day, without any background or any relation in the industry, I traveled to Meerut with little cash and my driver. We went through every nook and corner of Meerut and found a factory in some village who were able to supply me with plain bats. I handpicked the bats myself. We took 10 bats from an estimate of 250 - 300 bats and that's how the journey started.
It started as a mere option for an internship, I just thought of giving it a shot and that's how it began. I was doing sales while I was in the UK, while in college. I was promoting it on social media and getting decent sales. In my last year of college we received an email saying that there was an entrepreneurship award by the University of Briston for the engineering students. I wasn't confident at all because I knew there were people much smarter than me.There were students from MIT and Harvard and people with their own patents. Here, I was doing a pretty traditional drop strings kind of thing with bats. My friends forced me to apply for the award.
I graduated and came back to India. I wasn't happy with the product I was buying and selling because the bats were breaking, the performance and quality of the bat was not good enough to associate my name with. After a couple of days of coming back to India, I got the email that I had won the award, because I had done certain sales and ad sites someplace through social media.
That was the moment when I decided that it doesn’t matter that I don't know what is going to happen or how it's going to happen. I had no experience in business. I decided that I would start making my own product, because I want a better quality. That day A2 was born. That was the moment when I went all in, worse comes to worst I'll fail but by God's grace, I belong to a family where they could afford to support me. They were able to spend a large capital on me, and I was able to take the risk and I gave it a shot. It's been more than three and a half years, and we certainly established ourselves in the international market and have grown from there.
Q 2) As a manufacturer of cricket bats for over 35 international players and for 30+ premium brands, what sets you apart from the other bat manufacturers?
The traditional way of manufacturing is the same around the world. Most machines are the same, there's slight differences in the way they’re crafted. I did a lot of research and experiments being from an engineering background to find what works best for us. We took bits and pieces from Australian, British and Indian styles of bat making. We started traveling to factories in India, to see how they work and we developed a system where we are checking these bats 17 times during the process. The other thing we've perfected is the art of pressing the bat which is what gets the performance of each piece of willow. Now, I can claim that our bats worth 7000 Rupees can outperform any bat in the world that is worth 10,000 Rupees. It's the exclusivity or the speciality of the attention to detail. We're not a mass manufacturer. This is not a generational business, I've started from the ground up. The product we've developed is far superior.
It's right up there with the biggest bat because of the way to the overall quality and finish. The way they are crafted and the performance is the reason we've been so successful. A lot of international players are actually our customers and they are sponsored by other brands, they get their bats made by us because they get exactly what they want, and the performance of our bats is unreal.
Q 3) How much of a boost has it been for A2 Cricket to have Indian women’s national team captain Mithali Raj as a brand ambassador? What about her makes the perfect representative of A2 Cricket?
Signing Mithali Raj was quite a tricky thing. We signed her early in 2020 so the deal was underway from 2019. The funny thing is that we were already making Mithali’s bats before she even signed with A2. While she had endorsed a couple of different bats in the past, she was using ones that we had manufactured so she was aware of the quality of A2.
We met her towards the end of 2019 and we found out that her previous endorsement had reached an end. We saw the window of opportunity and to be very honest, we were not big enough to afford her as our brand ambassador. She is a huge celebrity and financially, we were not in a position to bring her on board. We went ahead anyway because it was a big opportunity. She is the best female cricketer in the world and she has a crazy fan following. She is also a very well respected player in the cricket community.
Funnily enough, she was about to sign on with one of the biggest brands in the market. We told her that there she would be one of many other players that they have on contract and at A2 she would be marketed along with the product and that she would be the front and centre.
Unfortunately though it hasn't been as fruitful because of the pandemic and everything that came with that. Cricket matches have not continued normally for the last 2 years. Having said that, Mithali has given us that international stature that we didn't have otherwise. We are taken more seriously now because one of the greatest cricketers uses an A2 bat. That boosts us in the form of trust from our customers and our dealers. They see us as a brand really willing to grow and promote themselves.
We are proud that she uses A2 bats and just yesterday she scored a 50 and it was with our product. She places us up there with the big brands. We obviously do not have a gambit of International players using our bats because at the moment we haven't reached the scale to be able to afford that many international players. There are so many bat manufacturers around the world and so few actual brands that find any success especially at the big level. The same big brands have been up in highlights for 50-60 years and we are trying to break that barrier and having Mithali has given us a big push in that direction.
Also read: 22 Not Out - Mithali Raj's remarkable legacy in Indian Cricket
Q 4) Who are some of the international cricketers that A2 Cricket manufactures bats for? How do the requirements vary from one cricketer to another?
Naming all the international cricketers would not be possible because many of them are sponsored by other brands, it would be unethical for me to say that they are using bats made by A2. What I can say is that until early last year, at least half of the Singapore national team were using A2 made bats, Dilruwan Perera in the Sri Lanka test team is using A2 bats, Farveez Maharoof and Dilshan (Munaweera) have used our bats. A couple of players from the Zimbabwe national team, a couple of players from the South African women’s team, who are sponsored by others are using our bats. We are making bats for some players in the New Zealand national team and some of Mithali Raj’s teammates are also using A2 bats as well as some big names in the IPL. The requirements vary from one cricketer to another because of different playing styles, some want a different type of wood, whether its finer grain or thicker grain, some want different size edges and handle sizes. Mithali Raj uses cricket bats that weigh 1140 to 1150 grams and it has a specific shape that we copy in our factory. We map the handle to the millimeter, on the contrary there is another big name in the women’s team who uses very heavy bats (1250 grams) and the shape is completely different. Tall crickets use longer bats, so all cricketers are different, but international cricketers generally prefer lighter bats because they face fast bowlers around the world.
Q 5) What are some of the challenges that you have faced in your journey so far? How did you overcome them?
One of the major challenges that I have faced is selling. While selling cricket bats is easy, I can sell all of my stock tomorrow as plain cricket bats, but selling them as A2 cricket bats is a tough job. In India it is a monopolized market with 4-5 big brands that have been in the industry for 50-70 years and breaking that monopoly and convincing the customer that our product, if not better, is on par is a tough task. People have been using the same products for 20-30 years and if one person experiences what we are offering, others start using the product. This brand is three years old and we don’t have investors on board, so convincing people to experience the brand is a major hurdle that we face. Having Mithali Raj helps in that aspect and increasing our social media marketing budget helps us educate the people about how our product is better and what our brand can offer. We are competing against some very big brands whose marketing budget is 20-30 times bigger than ours and investing that kind of capital is a step by step process. We are in no hurry to get many big names and are focused on growing organically at the moment and when more A2 bats become a part of the industry, the more enquiries we get.
Q 6) What are your goals and ambitions for A2 Cricket in the future? How do you plan to accomplish them?
A2 Cricket is ‘cricket’ for now, we want to scale up the brand. Even though we have experienced 100% growth in the last three years, the pandemic has shakin things up a bit. We have moved into a bigger factory, twice the size of the previous one and our aim in the next three years is to move to an even bigger factory. The production and demand is increasing, what we’re looking for is to get A2 Cricket to a certain level and then expand to other sports as well. The ultimate target is to get A2 as a performance enhancing premium sports brand. We want to enter other sports where there is a gap in the market for good quality products. The biggest sports brands are either American or German, our aim is to create an indigenous brand that is renowned across the world for its quality. We are already on that path and are increasing our valuation, next year we might get advisors and investors on board so that what is done in 50 years takes 10 years. We want to become a global sports brand based on R&D or design and be an indigenous brand. There is a lot of talent in India that we need to explore, get experts on board and use technology to develop products at good prices and provide to sports people around the world.
Our goal is to get more people to play cricket and raise the standard of the national teams - Brian Mantle, CEO of German Cricket Federation
For a sport that was first introduced over 150 years ago, Germany is not a country that is associated with cricket. A powerhouse in the football world, Germans never fail to make their voices heard at sporting venues and have some of the most passionate supporters in the world. The influx of people from different backgrounds, especially from the Indian subcontinent has played a big role in cricket gaining some relevance in the country, but it still has a long way to go to become one of the more ‘popular’ sports, especially amongst the younger generation.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Brian Mantle, Chief Executive Officer at the German Cricket Federation speaks about promoting cricket, grassroot development, overcoming challenges, raising the standard of cricket and his future goals and aspirations.
Q 1) Germany is known for its fantastic atmosphere in football stadiums, especially in the Bundesliga. How is the German Cricket Federation working towards promoting cricket amongst the younger population?
We are currently in the process of rolling out a completely new process in schools. It is a project that has been organised and developed by the ICC called CRIIIO. This is an entry level programme for total beginners to learn cricket for the first time. It has been translated into the German language and we hope to go to 200 schools every year to introduce German children to cricket because children and junior players are probably the only way to bring cricket to the masses here. We think cricket has a lot of benefits for Germans. It is different and interesting for the people here, for example it is not Football which of course is very dominant here.
We also believe it develops intercultural communication because if you play cricket you’ve got people playing from India, Pakistan, Australia and England as well as Germans so it is very interesting in that regard. Additionally, the spirit of cricket, good manners and good behaviour, I think is very important for young people. We are doing a lot of that but we are also doing a lot of other things. Things related to marketing for which I can not go into too much detail at the moment but you will see some very interesting things happening on our social media over the next two or three weeks. Things we are doing to get more German people to know about cricket. It is not known here. I think everyone here knows it exists but it is not really in the public consciousness but we are getting there slowly.
Q 2) How is the German Cricket Federation working at the grassroots to pave a way for aspiring cricketers in the country?
The first level is the schools and clubs I already told you about earlier where we get them to play Cricket for the first time. We also run leagues such as softball leagues and hardball leagues in various age groups and various parts of Germany. Some of them are very small, some are growing, and some are quite big. Then from that we take the most talented players and we give them special training through the German Cricket Academy run by an Indian, Abhijit Khan. He provides top-level performance cricket for the best aspiring cricketers. We hope that some of these players will play for Germany one day. In fact, from our national team at the moment, several of the players played for youth teams and youth structures in Germany.
We have been successful in the past so we have to make sure that it continues to happen in the future as well. That is not just for the boys but for girls’ cricket and women’s cricket is a massive part of what we do. Maybe, in some ways even more important than the men because we feel that womens’ cricket is a way for us to profile ourselves. In our Womens’ National team about 50-70 percent of the players are German born and bred and they have learnt cricket for the first time here and our women are ranked 25 in the world at the moment.
Q 3) As Chief Executive Officer at German Cricket Federation, what are the various challenges that you have faced? How did you overcome them?
Well firstly, cricket is a small sport here played very often by expatriates. People who have learnt cricket in their home countries which is why we have a lot of Indian and Pakistani students here. We also have many people who work in the IT sector or as engineers. We have a lot of people who come here as refugees, specially in the last 5-6 years from Afghanistan so integration is a big part of it. Getting people to play together.
The other challenge is ofcourse finance. We are very thankful that the ICC supports the associate nations with grants, but obviously we are trying to increase our income so that we can improve all of the things that we do. The biggest problem that we probably have is facilities. A cricket ground is twice as big as a football ground so to get a flat field where the grass is cut short and is the size of two football fields is very difficult in Germany.
I'll give you an example, we have two cricket grounds at the Olympic stadium in Berlin. The greenkeepers there are exactly the same people who do the stadium next door and they will not cut the grass short enough because they say that it is not good for the grass. There is a little bit of a lack of knowledge from people who are incharge of the facilities about what we need to play cricket.
Q 4) How much of a boost has the national performance centre in Krefeld been to raise the standard of cricket in Germany?
It has been massive because this club has a big piece of land which is very well manicured and is big enough to play international cricket on. Our players are now playing proper cricket, if they play a shot, the ball goes to the boundary rather than getting caught in long grass. The other thing is we have an indoor centre with a three lane net facility and bowling machines which gives all of our national teams the opportunity to train regularly, especially during winter as in Germany, we have long winters and people can't go outside. Now our players can go to the sports hall and face the bowling machines and play cricket as often as they want so it's definitely a huge impact. Next Thursday, we have the first T20 Internationals there with our women's team who are playing against France. Indian fans can watch the game live on Fancode. There are 5 T20Is in this series and it will be the first time we will be having international matches. In T20Is a game between Germany and France now has the same status as a game between England and India. We know that the quality is not as good, but we are getting there.
Q 5) For a country that is a powerhouse in the football world, do you envision German cricket to one day become as popular?
No. Absolutely not, it's unrealistic as German football is huge. The German Football Federation is the biggest sports federation in the world, we are very small in comparison. All we want is that Germany gets into a situation where everyone in the country knows that cricket exists. Everybody who wants to participate in cricket, whether it's a man, woman, child, maybe even veterans, umpires or scorers - everyone has the opportunity to participate in cricket and that we cover the whole country and age groups, that's our target basically. In terms of performance level, we want to get close to being one of the top associates in the World. At the moment we are maybe at the second group of associates, but we want to go upto the top level at some point in the next ten years.
Q 6) What are your goals and aspirations for cricket in Germany in the future? How do you plan to achieve it?
We have six parts. We have a new strategy which came out about three months ago. It consisted of six main parts with the first one being more participation - we want more people to play cricket. We have about 7000 people playing hardball cricket in Germany, but if you add the people playing softball cricket, it would be about 15,000 people and we want to increase that year on year. We want more umpires, more scorers and more coaches. We also want women's cricket to develop and have the intention of quadrupling the amount of teams playing women's cricket. We need more women's coaches and girls cricket to develop with under 19 structures for girls. We want more children playing cricket at all levels right from the youngest age to the under 19. We want cricket to have a higher profile and want our national teams to be successful, so that, like I mentioned before, when people talk about top associate nations they mention Germany in those conversations as well. For example, our men are playing the European Finals this year in the European T20 World Cup in Spain in October. We want to qualify from that tournament so that we can go to the global qualifier next year where we will be playing against some of the top countries in the world.
My goal is to make Malaysian cricket stronger and better - Winifred Duraisingam, captain of Malaysian Women’s Cricket team
Women’s cricket has significantly grown in popularity in the last few years with cricket news extensively covering all major women’s tournaments and iconic names inspiring the next generation of girls to take up the sport. While there are generational performers such as Ellyse Perry, Sarah Jane Taylor, Jhulan Goswami to name a few, who have proven innumerable doubters wrong, the role of women cricketers, especially in countries where cricket is still growing is equally important to lay the foundations in place.
In this exclusive interview with SPOGO, we’re speaking to one such cricketer, Ms. Winifred Duraisingam, captain of the Malaysia women’s cricket team. She spoke about her introduction to the sport and playing professionally, inspiring girls to take up the sport, grassroot development in Malaysia, experiences at the highest level, responsibilities as a captain and future goals.
Q 1) When did you first start playing cricket and what made you take up this sport professionally?
I started playing cricket outside the house, on the street as a young 8 year old. It has been more than 10 years since the boys started playing cricket on the street outside my house when I started to join. What made me start playing was seeing my brother Derek, who played this sport with the other boys. It made me want to join them and play as well. At the age of 8, I asked them if I could join in and bat but they were opposed to the idea because I was a small girl. Thankfully, my uncle David came up with a rule that anyone who gets the wicket will be able to bat. That being said, he even told me that he will teach me how to bowl. It felt really fun when I started to bowl and take wickets. The boys ended up keeping quiet and felt shy because a girl was taking their wickets. From there onwards, I enjoyed bowling more and the fire to continue bowling kept increasing. At the age of 13, I played for the Kuala Langat Club. I was the only girl who played and was the bowler. During this tournament, I played against the ex-Malaysian national player, Mr. Hector Durairatnam. He approached my uncle and asked who was that small boy who bowled against me earlier. To his surprise, my uncle replied, "that's my niece". Coincidentally, at that time there was a selection for the national team as well and they asked me to join the national team selection. I was at the mere age of 14 years old when I started representing my country in this sport. That's how I started playing cricket and never stopped loving the game.
Q 2) You are one of the 15 National Women cricketers to be awarded a contract by the Malaysian Cricket Association. In your opinion, how big of an impact will it have in encouraging more girls to take up this sport?
In my opinion, being one of the 15 National Women cricketers to be awarded a contract by the Malaysian Cricket Association has encouraged me to work harder. Since the valuation of the grade for each player will be reviewed once in three months, it is a must for every player to increase or maintain their performance. Plus, being given a monthly remuneration will definitely help me financially. I believe many girls out there will be driven to try their hand at cricket when they notice the rewards which comes along with it and strive to do their best at this sport
Q 3) What are the other activities or initiatives the MCA has undertaken to develop Women's and grassroots programs in Malaysia?
MCA has taken many initiatives to develop Women's Cricket. For example, MCA has focused on the young generation and curated a program called Adiwira. This event has been turned into a competition that has been held in many schools around Malaysia. Moreover, many more schools have collaborated with MCA to become a center where pupils can train under a proper training programme during their school days. This has allowed the expansion of the women’s team and participation. We can see the results from this expansion when Malaysia sent quite a number of U19 girls to China for a tournament.
Q 4) You were also among the 8 women to participate in the Men's MCA T20 Super Series 2020. Tell us about your experience in it?
It is very exciting as I got the chance to face new types of bowlers and batsmen. I would say it’s a lie if I didn't feel scared facing them, but I learned so many things on how to handle them during the tournament. As a captain for the Women's team, I took that opportunity to learn leadership skills with my captain during the tournament. Playing with the Men's team has really given me a new sight on how to become a better cricketer.
Q 5) As a captain what do you do to keep your team in high spirits and keep the dressing room environment positive and light?
As a captain, I will always give my full support to my teammates whenever they feel down in the field and even outside. It is very important for me to be patient in terms of handling my team during the game. If I lose my patience, I am sure my team will follow suit as well. This is a behavior I’d like them to avoid especially during training and game time. As for the situation in the dressing room, a positive environment definitely plays an important role in making sure the team feels positive vibes. For me, I will make sure the dressing room is clean and tidy. The players are discouraged from backbiting and cursing each other about an incident that happened during training or at the game. It is a need for me and my fellow teammates to listen to music before our games to boost our mood and lift our spirits.
6. What are your future goals and aspirations as the skipper of the Malaysian team and how do you plan to achieve them?
As the skipper, my ultimate goal would be to stand alongside my girls at the top of the cricket rank. I want to be the one who leads them towards those achievements and more. I will begin by setting a target for the women’s cricket team to be at the 25th rank. It will be my job to push them to the limit where we will train more and do better at each training session so we can be stronger and keep getting better. Besides that, I will ask them to watch more games together to make our bond tighter and our spirits continue blooming while expanding our knowledge. Plus, this is one way to continue learning the art of being a great cricketer. The goal is to continue learning the tricks and master valuable skills like some of the best women cricketers, Ellyse Perry and Heather Knight. Despite the pandemic, I believe there’s more that my team can achieve and as their support system, I’ll continue setting monthly and quarterly goals with them and have sit down sessions to see how we can tackle those goals and prep ourselves for worldwide competitions once we head back to some sort of normalcy again.
AI will enable players to get quality training, reduce injury risk and help reach their true potential - Arminder Thind, Founder of StanceBeam
Sports technology has crossed leaps and bounds as you may have read in the cricket news since the last few years, giving a significant competitive advantage to its adopters. It gives new data and insights about player performance, monitor training sessions, compare progress and much more to break previously established limits and add a whole new dimension to the world of sports.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Mr. Arminder Thind, Founder of StanceBeam speaks about the role of AI and its benefits, StanceBeam striker, raising the standards of sport through technology, implementing feedback from end users and his vision for the future of innovations in sport.
Q 1) As a founder of StanceBeam, what led you to foresee the future of sports being driven by technology? What is your aim and vision for this company?
Working in the sports-tech space for over 6 years and being sports players ourselves, we experience few key challenges - lack of curriculum based and data driven coaching leading to untapped player potential. Limited availability of trained coaches so their time is spread very thin for players and the problem aggravates more for non urban players. We continue to hear stories of players travelling hundreds of kilometers to get access to coaches and training facilities or even worse, a lot of talent never get a chance to show talent and excel in sports. Our VISION is to empower players globally to play sports, stay fit and achieve their true potential by breaking the barrier of physical places to train and the right coaches to train with.
Q 2) How is Artificial Intelligence changing the face of sports? What are its benefits for the sporting industry?
As of today, we have multiple start-ups like StanceBeam working on ground breaking ideas in sport-tech space, from fan engagement to player performance improvement and injury prevention. StanceBeam is specifically leveraging AI in conjunction with IoT devices to gather data to attempt to optimize training and performance of the players. With so much innovation happening in this space, there are very healthy signs of adoption of sports-tech at consumer level, though it’s currently at an early adoption stage.
Q 3) What sort of data does StanceBeam striker provide that will turn a regular bat into a smart tech device? How will it benefit the players and coaches?
The StanceBeam Striker is the most accurate Cricket Bat sensor and is designed to fit on top of any Cricket bat which turns it into a Smart Bat. StanceBeam app seamlessly connects with StanceBeam Striker to provide you real-time feedback and give players a view of their game never seen before. Smart Video Capture capability of the StanceBeam app allows automatically to record 4 seconds of video per bat swing, Tag it with the players every shot and overlay swing metrics. The Stancebeam measures a unique set of metrics in real-time – with each swing of a cricket bat – including Power Analysis, Shot Efficiency, Max Bat Speed, Speed at Impact, Bat Angles, and Directions. StanceBeam app also produces a summary session, highlights and insights for each session and players can compare their progress over time, share stats/videos with their coaches for further feedback and improvements. To build a better player - we need to build a better coach. Providing key information traditionally only available to elite coaches in a controlled lab situation can now be used anywhere and be tracked in real time, or remotely - working around the modern cricketing world - where players will be away from the home base for months at a time. StanceBeam App allows coaches to manage multiple players within the app. Coaches can also create a big impact on players' improvements by giving data driven feedback using Mobile Video Analysis, Audio and Text Notes, Session Rating, and assign Video drills.
Q 4) How is StanceBeam bringing its technological innovations in the hands of aspiring cricketers? Do you believe it will significantly raise the standard of sports in our country?
The StanceBeam device made in India is available in multiple countries including India as well as e-commerce channels like Amazon. Kookaburra, a leading Cricket Brand, is our distribution partner for key global markets. Being a new category product and cricket being such a traditional sport, changing players and coaches' mindset about a data driven approach for better performance is not easy. So we have been working with progressive coaches, academies and associations across India to enable access to our technological innovation to the cricket players. We are glad that now we have a good number of players and coaches across the globe who have used our technology and seen a positive impact on their training regime and overall performance – 1 million plus cricket shots have been recorded on StanceBeam so far and counting. We have kids in India training with coaches in Australia on our platform. We’re breaking the access barrier, especially for players from small towns. Throughout COVID-19 pandemic, we have many players who were able to stay in touch with coaches and continue their training regime.
Q 5) How is StanceBeam incorporating feedback from players and coaches to constantly make improvements to its services for a more useful and better experience to end users?
At the heart of what we have done is focus on the player - building an experience that can help them with their game - both in the nets and on the pitch. By focusing on what’s important - seamless integration, meaningful data and feedback with technology that isn’t intrusive - we are delivering what will help refine the next generation of players. Through our research and development, design and implementation, software and hardware - we have been focused on creating the most accurate and interactive experience for our customers - allowing for no compromise in terms of accuracy, interactivity and uniqueness to create an experience not only relevant for cricket - but in answering the demands of our customer. What we have developed could only have come from seamless customer integration and feedback. Other than 10,000 plus players and 500 coaches on the platform which continue to inspire us to do more for them, we are fortunate to have Shikhar Dhawan as mentor and regular user of StanceBeam and share his feedback to make it more useful for players. Since everyone in the StanceBeam team are passionate sports players and fans, we spend considerable time with coaches and working in academies so we stay on ground to understand our customers’ requirements/feedback and solve their real problems.
Q 6) What do you envision in the future use of AI in sports? What sort of technological innovations can we expect and how do you think it will revolutionize the sports industry?
AI which is humanised and has a real human perspective will be a game changer. It will allow actionable insights on player performance and injury risks and let coaches/players make more informed decisions. Just as an example, StanceBeam generates an abundance of data via Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, video and audio during player session captures. However, the data by itself does not provide any value unless we can turn data into actionable, contextualized information. Artificial Intelligence provides us the tools and framework to perform real time data analysis and actionable insights with complete automation. AI will enable players more quality training time and manage load to reduce injury risks.
My objective is to help Malaysia win matches with my batting ability - Ahmad Faiz, Malaysia Men’s Cricket team captain
A captain in any sport is a role that is widely unappreciated by the onlookers. It’s not just about commanding your teammates, being the boss or taking credit in the cricket news. Just like a management position in any corporate role, it involves composure, decision making skills, taking risks and claiming responsibility when things don’t go according to plan. A captain is a leader who is approachable, respectable and has the insatiable desire to win.
For the Malaysian Cricket team, Ahmad Faiz is a captain that has navigated his players through memorable highs and crippling lows. He has won over the fans with his performances and led by example in a sport that is still getting its footing in Malaysia. In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Ahmad Faiz speaks about being introduced to cricket, pursuing the sport professionally, memorable moments, giving credit to others, future goals and more!
Q 1) When were you first introduced to cricket and how did your interest in the sport grow?
My father Mr. Mohammad Noor Shuib was a Kedah Cricket State Coach, so I used to follow school/state training and tournaments since I was 5 years old. I remember when I was 8 years old, Kedah cricket players Ikhwan Rosli, tied me up with senior pads where the pads covered my whole body to practice together with them. Kedah players always wanted to play with me, even when I was a little boy. From there, I picked up the sport very fast. My first trial was at primary school, Ustaz Rizalman was my first coach at Sekolah Rendah Ibrahim who wanted me to try out my skills. I just bowled one over where all the balls were very good for a 10 years old boy, with no extras and I also hit the stumps twice. From there on, he asked me to join school, district and state training in the same year. My first Malaysia Cricket duty was Under 13 Tuanku Jaafar held in Hong Kong when I was 12 years old and we were crowned as champions in that tournament. It was a big step forward for me to play cricket at that moment.
Q 2) What are the challenges one needs to overcome in order to take up the sport of cricket professionally in a country like Malaysia where it isn't a mainstream sport?
Currently, Cricket in Malaysia is gradually getting more popular as the Ministry of Education (MOE) supports cricket by setting a cricket curriculum syllabus from primary school to secondary school. MOE also supports our new entrance programme, we call it ADIWIRA CRICKET which is also sponsored by Sime Darby Foundation, one of largest Malaysia government linked-company. Cricket is definitely becoming one of the top sports in Malaysia and we are progressing and getting more grassroot participants such as teachers and students at the school level. It will take time to invest in making cricket one of the main sports in Malaysia. We are also targeting parents' involvement as the main stakeholders of our resources for the incoming new players. More awareness surrounding the community will evolve the spirit of the game. Malaysian Cricket already implements a contract base for Malaysian Mens and Womens senior teams, which also help the players to pursue their career as cricketers. Currently, we have improved our ranking status but it's still not enough for us to be top 12 in the world and we are looking to progress it by the year 2025.
Q 3) You were the member of the Malaysian Cricket team which won the gold medal in 50 overs tour at the 2017 South East Asian Games. How special was that win?
It was the most overwhelming moment for me to represent my country and score a century in front of thousands Malaysian supporters. I still remember the roar and the claps from supporters in the stands, they shouted my name so many times. They gave me a standing ovation when I raised my bat after scoring a century against Singapore and once I got out, their faces were full of smiles and showed gratitude for my performance. We played really well as a team on that day. I was supported by Virandeep Singh at a crucial time and we made a big run partnership. We celebrated like true champions after we scored the last run of the game. Every teammate ran towards the batsmen and we also ran towards the spectator pavilion to celebrate with the fans because they all are our 12th men surrounding the field. It was a special day for Malaysian Cricket when we beat the Singapore team who had a better ranking than us at that time.
Q 4) Malaysian Cricket has been enjoying decent success in the T20 format off late. Who would you like to give credit for this?
Overall, I would like to give credit to all the players, coaches, MCA administrative officials and staff for all the sacrifice and hard work that has led to our success. Bilal Asad has proven his ability to lead the Malaysia Men's team, resulting in them being crowned champions again after he took the head coach position again in January 2020. Our performances and results have gotten better since Bilal came into the team. We also got support from many assistants like our trainer Shukri Rahim who looks after our fitness levels, our physio Yuvaraj for taking care of our injury status, coaches such as Aimal and Wahib who look after our overall requirements, psychologist like Madhuli ma’am who helps us maintain our mental health and our manager Mr. Amy Mokhzani who looks after our overall welfare.
Q 5) What are the areas that you think Malaysian Cricket needs to address for it to take it's recent success into ICC tournaments?
We have very good exposure thanks to our friends in Singapore, Nepal and Sri Lanka where we can travel and get the opportunity to play in different conditions. We need more competitive tournaments like the IPL, PSL, BPL, Global T20 to give more exposure to Malaysian cricketers so that we face better opponents as it will benefit the team.
Q 6) You finished as the leading run scorer of the 2018 ICC World Cricket League Division Four tournament. What was that experience like?
Actually, I did not know that I was the leading run scorer at that moment. My major objective is to win any Malaysia match by using my batting ability as my strength. Yes, I am happy that we moved from Division 6 to 4 in only 2 years in the previous years but I don't feel I have enough runs because I can't bring Malaysia to Division 3 due to my lack of runs for the team at 2018 World Cricket League tourney which we finished at number 3, resulting in Malaysia staying in Division 4.
Q 7) As a Cricketer and the captain of the Malaysian team what are you next looking forward to?
For now, we look at the T20 qualifiers and our aim is to reach the top 12 in the world rankings by 2025. We are also looking forward to playing against better opponents in the near future to give us a better pathway to progress. We are also looking forward to exposing our players to play at Global T20 by Canada Cricket. In a very sensitive Covid-19 situation, we remain optimistic and continue to train individuals and conduct team training via online platforms.
An in-depth analysis of Joss Buttler’s batting style against pace and spin
On May 2nd 2021, Joss Buttler hit his maiden century in the IPL off just 56 balls. Playing against Sunrisers Hyderabad, he scored 124 (64) which helped his team put up a huge total of 220 which later on was too much for the opponent to chase and hence won the match by 55 runs.
With the T20 World Cup happening this year, England is surely one of the contenders to win the cup. The evidence of which we saw in the recently concluded T20 series against India that went down to the wire. Joss Buttler is surely going to be the key for them, from whom they would want fiery starts.
From an Indian point of view, let's have a look at how he plays pace & spin.
Overall Record :
When we look at his overall numbers, it seems that he is a bit weaker against Spin than Pace. Against Pace he has an Average of 42.1 and Strike Rate of 164.4 but against Spin his Average is 40.9 & Strike Rate is 134. There may not be enough drop in average but his Strike Rate against Spin is quite low when compared against pace.
Let’s have a look at his year wise stats.
Pace vs Spin ( Year Wise ) :
Looking at the numbers, it's quite evident that he has improved himself against Spin. In 2018 his average was just 40 with a Strike Rate of 137, which has significantly increased to 66.5 and 147.8 respectively.
But his numbers against Pace have been quite poor. Ever since 2018, his average & Strike Rate both have been declining. Let's jump into the details of how he has played against different pace & spin bowlers.
SR and Avg against different bowling types
When we dig deep into his numbers, we find that he is really good against Left Arm Off-Spin. He has a staggering average of 171 and an SR of 147.4. Against Left Arm Fast & Right Arm Fast his Strike Rate might be above average around 150s. But his average is below 40.
Also, it's quite evident that he struggles against Left Arm Leg spin & Right Arm Leg-Spin. Although he has not faced enough balls of Left Arm leg-spin (18) still against the Right Arm, he has an average of 23 and an SR of 126.4.
To understand better, we got to have a look at his Strike Rate in the first 10 balls. Where a batsman is quite hesitant and low on confidence.
SR in first 10 balls:
By looking at his Strike Rate we find that he struggles a lot against Right Arm Leg-Spin in the initial phase of his innings. Where he is not even able to Strike at run a ball. He just has a Strike Rate of 86 against Right Arm Leg Spin.
Let’s look at his Boundary & Dot Ball % against different type of bowlers.
Boundary & Dot Ball % :
When we look at this matrix , it is clearly visible that Joss Buttler’ boundary & dot ball % against Right Arm Leg Spin are below average. His Dot ball % is 42.64 & Boundary % is 55.21.
Against Left Arm Off Spin he is too good, has a Boundary % over 50 & Dot Ball % below 30.
From the current Indian team, who is most likely to be in the first 11 who can trouble Joss Buttler is Yuzvendra Chahal. Let's see how Joss has tackled him in the IPL.
Buttler vs Chahal:
Out of 26 balls that Joss faced off Chahal, he has just managed to score 25 runs at a Strike Rate of 96. Hitting just 1 Four & 1 Six, where Chahal has even managed to dismiss him once.
The above analysis takes us to a conclusion that Chahal could be the Key against Joss Buttler in the T20 World Cup. It might be risky but worth taking a chance, which would allow India to get an early breakthrough and thus allow them to put the opponents under pressure.
About the Author :
Saksham Alag is an aspiring Cricket Analyst. He has experience in conducting performance analyses on IPL and elite players, and liaised with cricketers including Sohail Tanvir, Sheldon Cottrell, Nkrumah Bonner, and Jaya Sharma. He has also worked on compiling scouting reports, client reviews and engaged with cricket clubs.
LinkedIn: Saksham Alag
It was a huge privilege to represent my country at such a young age - Ireland cricketer Gaby Lewis
Ireland's star all rounder Gaby Lewis epitomizes what they call a 'young prodigy achieving great things'. Having made her International debut at the age of just 13, Gaby is the third generation of Lewis family pursuing cricket. In 2018 Lewis was named as one of the five breakout stars in women's cricket by ICC.
The 20 year old is a fierce competitor and has been instrumental in scripting many victories for her national and domestic sides, inarguably making her a player to watch out for in International women's cricket.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, the young gun talked about her debut, her journey so far and the most influential people in life.
Q 1) How was it representing your country at the age of 13? What according to you have been the highlights of your journey so far?
It was a huge privilege to represent my country at such a young age. To be honest I don’t quite remember much of the day but I remember how nervous I was but also how welcoming and friendly my teammates were.
I have a few highlights so far but if I was to pick out just one it would be winning the Qualifiers in Thailand. It was a great tournament to be involved in.
Q 2) Who were your idols or role models growing up? How big of an impact your family's cricketing legacy had in you taking up the sport professionally?
Clare Shillington was someone I looked up to growing up. She moved to my club and I got the opportunity to open the batting with her and I learned a lot from her.
Growing up in a cricketing family was obviously the reason that I started the game but it was my decision to pursue the career semi-professionally. There wasn’t any pressure on me to stay in the game from my family, it’s always been me because I love the sport.
Q 3) What is your post match unwind routine?
I don’t really have one to be honest, just a big feed and a good night's sleep!
Q 4) Who have been the most influential people in your journey so far? What role have they played in making you who you are today?
As I mentioned above Clare Shillington, but also my coach from when I was a kid, Kamal Merchant. He has had a massive impact on me being where I am today. I have worked with him from a very young age.
Q 5) What are your expectations from the 2022 ICC Women's World Cup? How well can the Irish team fare according to you?
I assume you mean the 50 over World cup. We have our qualifying tournament for it in December in Sri Lanka. We obviously hope to qualify and know that we will need to play our best cricket for that to happen. We have our Super Series competition this summer to help us prepare which has been brilliant. The standard has improved tremendously from last year and hopefully that will be of huge benefit for when we go to Sri Lanka.
Q 6) What are you looking forward to next?
I am looking forward to a lot of cricket this summer after 20 months off. We have started our season and I’m loving it so far so can’t wait for what the rest of the season holds
Q 7) Any message for the young girls aspiring to be future cricketers?
Keep enjoying the game and take every opportunity you can get.
American College Cricket has laid the foundation for the sport that others can build on - Lloyd Jodah, Founder and President of ACC
It’s fair to say that cricket is not the most popular sport in the USA. For a country where the most popular sport in the world - football, (also known as soccer) probably occupies the fourth spot behind American football, basketball and baseball, it’s a reasonable assumption that cricket’s popularity, particularly in the Indian subcontinent, has not caught up with this part of the world. However, American College Cricket is on a mission to promote cricket at the Universities and bring it to the forefront to become a mainstream sport in the future.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Mr. Lloyd Jodah, Founder and President of American College Cricket speaks about its success, promoting cricket and universities, challenges that he has faced, organizing tournaments and future goals.
Q 1) Since its formation in 2008, how successful has the American College Cricket been in growing the Sport in America & Canada?
American College Cricket created a new platform for cricket and is by the far the most successful cricket organization in US history. To use the major example of broadcasting:
1 - American College Cricket did the 1st Live stream of cricket in USA in March 2010
2 - Oct 2011 we were the first (& so far only) organization to broadcast cricket on American TV
3 - American College Cricket was the 1st, and still only entity to broadcast cricket in the USA on ESPN when we did our March 2014
National Championship Final. We were also the 1st non-international cricket to be broadcast by ESPN, before the IPL.
4 - in 2016 we did an agreement with SONY and each year SONY does our National Championship Semis & Finals. Had it not been for
the Covid shutdown our 2020 Championship Semis and Finals would have been on SONY LIV in India.
We even brought the 1st major US corporation into cricket sponsorship in the USA when we got Coca Cola in 2012, then in 2015/16
when Dream11 was in its early stages it was our sponsor.
Q 2) What is being done to promote Cricket at grassroot level in the US?
Non- Americans always ask this question without understanding that the grassroots for American sport has always been college (University). Every other level comes after that. We created a platform for the game at the college level in the USA as Wisden recognized US cricket in 2014 saying, "the most promising development has been the formation of American College Cricket. Founded by Lloyd Jodah, ACC now has teams at over 60 universities…. perhaps because of this show of interest, in 2011 ESPN bought the US broadcast rights to all future international cricket matches, including the 2015 World Cup.”
Therein is the answer, American College Cricket has laid the foundation (though USA is so large the work is never done) it's up to others to build on that.
Q 3) What are the major challenges you face while promoting and growing Cricket in a country where the Sport isn't quite popular?
Everything, cricket, social, economic. One example is that cricketers don't look around and "do as the Romans do". For example I've started college clubs which then went and played in non-college leagues, clearly not understanding their brand value. This never happens in other college sports, colleges only play vs other colleges in USA college sports. Cricket would have been much further along in development in the USA if cricket players didn't proceed as if blindfolded.
Other examples are: when we started doing TV, we couldn't find fields with electrical power. Getting players to show up punctually. Getting fields with proper outfields. Getting money to execute ideas. I could list challenges all day.
Q 4) Besides immigrants from Cricket playing nations, do other Americans also get involved with the game?
Immigrants usually become Americans. Traditionally the USA is not like many other countries where immigrants remain outsiders, generally speaking.
I will say this, at the college and professional levels (American) football and basketball are mainly Black, whilst Ice Hockey is mainly White. The NBA is about 75% Black, the NFL about 70%, the NHL is about 93 % White, yet cricket's demographics are always questioned. I don't care what ethnicity or nationality is playing my game, as long as it's being played. Let's show what's great about cricket, and maybe we might attract people new to the game.
When American College Cricket teams step on the field, they are American institutions wearing "American uniforms" playing the game, and their ethnicity is irrelevant. They represent their universities, not their ethnicity or nationality.
Q 5) What are the major tournaments being played at University levels and what is the response these games receive?
When I began American College Cricket in late 2008 that was the beginning of college cricket in the USA in modern times. Cricket in colleges before that was tennis or tape ball internally, and unorganized. We started cricket clubs in over 100 colleges and nearly every college that now has an organized club in USA is due to American College Cricket, either because I had a direct involvement in starting the club, or a student was motivated by hearing about American College Cricket,or seeing our videos or photos (we've been the only cricket organization in USA, since 2010, to have thousands of cricket action pics).
When we started, colleges spent $0 on cricket, but we motivated all colleges that have participated in American College Cricket to provide facilities for practicing and playing, and varying amounts of $$ to partially fund their clubs' activities. Just as important, every club that has participated in American College Cricket has been written about in their college media, which exposes the game to so many more students, and embeds it in American society.
We've had a National Championship since 2009, Regional Championships since 2010, a USA vs Canada Series since 2015. We've had 546 games in our National Championships and 633 in our Regional championships,and 23 in our USA vs Canada Series. Our National Championship probably has been the largest cricket tournament ever, for example in 2011 we had 67 matches in 5 days (played by 32 teams). I brought down the size to about 50 matches subsequently, and even less now.
Q 6) Where do you see the future of American Cricket and in your opinion when we will see America's national team competing with major Cricketing countries?
America might compete with major cricketing countries soon because it recently achieved ODI status, and the new USA Cricket body seems to be bringing players from cricket playing countries. On the other hand there are "Test" countries that have economic, organizational, political and other issues unfortunately which affect their performance so it'll be easy for USA to catch up on the field. Only India can be happy about cricket's status in their country, and even there soccer may challenge it in about 20 years.
However merely competing at a higher level is not by itself development. Cricket "development" faces countless issues but the biggest one is the ICC law for ODIs and T20s which says that any ball down the Leg Side is a wide - this has created a game that is divorced from real cricket, and made the game Baseball-like, with a set "Strike zone". A poor imitation of Baseball will not make it in the USA when there's real baseball. Who would be intrigued by a batsman pulling (a baseball like shot) with a broad flat bat when it's more challenging for a baseball batter to play the same shot with a smaller round baseball bat ?
Additionally the ICC has ignored what American College Cricket has done - what kind of International body ignores what we've accomplished for the game over the past 12 years in the toughest sports market in the world? How do you invade the USA and ignore an American's success in giving cricket a real chance in the USA ? I go more into this in my forthcoming book.
“Our vision is to make cricket a major sport in Malaysia as we aspire to play in the World Cup”- Dinesh Muthuraman, COO of Malaysian Cricket Association
Cricket in Malaysia has a longstanding history dating back to early 1880 and in 1967, Malaysian cricket was admitted as an associate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC). Malaysia has seen cricket evolve over the years and of recent, there is rapid growth, especially among the ethnic youth. Through many sustainable structures in place, Malaysian Cricket is on its way to realising its vision of being a major sport in the country with a world -renowned team.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Dinesh Muthuraman, Chief Operating Officer of Malaysian Cricket Association, shares his insights about the growth of cricket, the vision forward, grassroot development, increasing female participation and what the future looks like for Malaysian Cricket.
Q 1) Malaysian cricket has a very rich history, started by the British and becoming the associate member of the ICC. How has the journey been? Please share light on the growth of Malaysian cricket.
Malaysia has a very rich cricket history. Being a British colony, the game was introduced in 1880’s and the British formed the first cricket club at the Royal Selangor Club which still holds several tournaments to this day. Going back in time, the first recorded match was played between the state of Selangor and Malacca in 1887. No doubt, cricket was always associated as an elite sport.
Malaysian Cricket Association has since embarked on making the sport accessible to every Malaysian and there was no better place to start than in the national schools throughout the country. The country houses more than ten thousand schools and today we even have cricket in the school syllabus for the primary and secondary students.
Today, we have our state affiliates working hand in hand with the national association who continue to work tirelessly towards growing cricket in all schools. We train the teachers and develop sustainable programmes for cricket at all levels to enable continuity and growth of the sport with the support of the state education departments and the Ministry Of Education.
All this is aside, we have clear pathway programmes that can provide our talents with a career in the sport. There are in addition, high profile clubs in the country with their own teams and they organise their own inter-port matches.
Through all of these developments, Malaysian cricket has earned credibility and has had many parties reaching out to partner us in various capacities. Towards this end, we are pleased to see an upward trend.
Q 2) As the COO of the Malaysian Cricket Association, what is your vision, and the path you plan to take for Malaysian cricket board?
In order to be a major sport in Malaysia, we have embarked on making cricket accessible and known, beginning at the grassroots. In 2010, cricket was played in around 154 schools and most of these schools were the country’s top boarding schools.
Currently, Malaysia has more than 10,500 schools. In our quest to promote cricket to all the schools, we worked towards putting solid structures in place, obtained sponsorship for educational pathways for the players and most importantly, we gained support from the Ministry of Sports and the Ministry of Education making our efforts sustainable.
With the backing of the ministries, we were able to follow in the footsteps of major cricket playing countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh and introduce a School Cricket Programme. Our programme encompasses courses for school teachers to learn the basics of the sport which will then enable the teachers to cascade the knowledge and skill to their students.
Through the introduction of the school programmes, we are assured of recruiting more locals to play for the country which will be far more sustainable for the development of the cricket in Malaysia in addition to providing a better future for the player and their families, elevating their socio-economic status. We see it as a win -win for all.
Q 3) The ICC has just announced changes to its 50-over World Cup format being expanded to 14 teams and the T20 World Cup format expanded to 20 teams and will be held every two years. How does it impact Malaysia’s cricket team?
We welcome the changes made by the ICC for the 50 overs World Cup format and the fact the T20 has been increased to twenty (20) teams. This is a positive move by the ICC and we thank them for the inclusion of more teams, as it now gives better opportunities for associate countries like Malaysia to participate and reach our goal of playing in the World Cup.
When a nation empowers its teams to participate in global tournaments, then promoting the sport locally will come with ease. The team is at present working hard to qualify for the CWC world cup while Malaysian Cricket Association is looking towards giving them international exposure. Recently, our national team played in the tri-series in Nepal. They played against high-ranking teams namely the Netherlands and Nepal. We have a few international tournaments lined up for the fourth quarter of the year for both the men and women’s teams in preparation for World Cup qualifiers.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tournaments are now at a standstill. Under normal circumstances, we would have been playing in the 2nd round Challenge League in Canada this August. This tournament however has been rescheduled to be played in Malaysia in December 2021 and the 3rd round will be played in Canada in 2022. With the T20, it is open to all the participating countries and Malaysia will be playing the ICC Sub regional Asia qualifiers in November this year. If we were to win, it would put us in good stead to play in the World Cup qualifiers.
Q 4) Which are the major leagues or tournaments being played at school and state levels and what is the response that these games receive? Please elaborate on the grass root development programs.
We have introduced the Cricket Adirwira program which is an entry level program with modified cricket rules that can be played anytime, anywhere by anyone. Through the Cricket Adiwira, programme, both teachers and students are able to understand the game as we have simplified rules and the game is played using tape-ball. Seeing as it is not possible to engage coaches for all the 10,500 schools, this simplified version is the best way to introduce the game to the teachers.
In Cricket Adiwira, all players will have equal opportunity in batting, bowling and fielding. Through this program, we have introduced cricket to around 1,500 schools & 2500 teachers. The school teachers now understand the rules of basic cricket. We still have to reach the remaining schools and our target is by the end of 2025.
Cricket Adirwira is an eight-week programme. Upon completion, the players will be moving to a competition called T10 blaze after which they will progress to T20 blast. The Ministry of Education organised an U 12 and U18 tournaments for the boys starting from the district level, then the state and on to the national level. Apart from this, MCA organised in collaboration with MOE a national school championship for the U12 and U18 for both boys and girls and also an interstate tournament for U16 and U19 for the states associations and the best players from these competitions will be selected for the National age group camps. We are very invested in bringing cricket to the grassroots which will then produce more national players.
Q 5) Malaysian Cricket off late has been faring decently especially in the T20 format. What are the factors you think are responsible behind the team's success? How do you plan the team performance in ICC tournaments?
Well, it all starts from within, and with our players, although not overnight, we inculcated a ‘winning mentality’, we had to make them believe in their ability. We see the results surfacing, currently, 90% of our players are local. Prior to 2015 we had 50% foreign players in our national team and were moving up the global rankings. However, with careful consideration, we decided to take in local talent at an appropriate time to train and field local talent.
Apart from the above, we felt that the T20 format will have buy-in from the local talents since this format requires lesser hours of play compared to one day format or the other longer formats. MCA introduced T20 tournaments at the club & state level as well as the high performance tournaments to the best 80 in the country to get maximum domestic exposure and selecting the best available 14 players to represent the country.
We knew things would be difficult at the start but later on the boys will improve. Some of the players who started at that time had already played in the 2008 U19 World Cup or in the ACC U-19 Asia Cup between the years 2012 to 2017. We had a mixture of senior & junior players in the team in 2015-16 but we kept them together and we then decided to award them with a full- time contract in 2019. These players train on a regular basis.
In addition, we joined forces with local private and public institutes of higher learning and secured scholarship programmes for our players. To complement the education journey, we have the armed forces that are also employing cricketers. We have created a pathway for these players be it in education or employment and today, we see that these players are working really hard with a sense of loyalty in wanting to play their best and give back to their country.
As the association seeks to produce professional players, then the onus is on us to take care of their every need. The contracts given to them is to afford them to play cricket and not have to worry about leaving cricket to find another job. This way, they can play, continue their studies and can also work in the armed forces and come back to train full time. The Malaysian Cricket Association has also employed some of the players' development officers. Through these systems in place, we see remarkable improvements. We are also working towards giving International exposure by providing competitive matches that will see our players performing in the international arena.
Q 6) Malaysia recently awarded contracts to 15 national women cricketers, how big of an impact could it have in promoting the game among women and young girls? What are the major challenges you face while growing Cricket in Malaysia and how do you overcome them?
While it is a given that the ultimate goal for any sport is ‘the medal’, the focus of Malaysia Cricket is not merely on the medal. Malaysia Cricket looks beyond and deeper as embedded in its corporate vision “To be a Major Sport in Malaysia”, lies an innate passion to empower and inspire young minds at the grassroots level, through the sport of cricket and advertently, change lives. For the first time in twenty-two years, fifteen girls were admitted into Malaysia’s first sports School - The Bukit Jalil Sports School. We certainly consider this a milestone of Cricket in Malaysia.
To change the perception of cricket as a sport, we had to foremost ensure the ‘buy in’ from the Ministry of Education and that the MOE needed to understand that with this sport we can definitely change the children's lives as cricket is a team game. It took us almost ten years to gain their confidence. And we now work well with the ministries and schools.
At present, we are faced with the challenge of how to convince parents; since they believe it's hard to have a career in sports in a country like Malaysia, as cricket is not played as a professional sport. If together with a contract, comes placement for a job, then the parents will be more willing. Giving the contract to 25 men and 15 women actually changed the preconceived perception about cricket. Parents and teachers are now showing interest, people are following us and we are seeing a host of positive changes.
Q 7) As COO, what are the top three priorities that you would like to focus on? Where do you see Malaysian Cricket Association in the next 5 years?
My top three priorities would certainly be sponsorship & fan engagement, to see the national team play in the world cup and have a pool of trained coaches.
Malaysian Cricket Association has already developed school cricket, we have club cricket and we now have Government support. In terms of finances, it will always be very difficult to get a sponsorship, especially in the current scenario.
In 2018 we began our very own in - house production to live stream all matches which took off in 2019. Last year, 2020 FanCode from India bought the broadcasting rights for the T20i bi-lateral series between Malaysia and Hong Kong. This made us believe that we really have an opportunity of selling our events and thus started doing live streaming more seriously. Sponsorship is steadily streaming now.
To be a self-sustaining association, sponsorship is an important factor to promote the game. We cannot depend solely on grants and subsidies, hence, we need to bring in the sponsorship. In addition, we are in the midst of partnering with a technology company that will be a game changer for Malaysian Cricket fan engagement.
An equally important priority is the national team. We need to qualify for the World Cup for both men and women and also in the U19 levels. Apart from that, growing the game in Malaysia to realise our vision is just as important. This will require us to have good quality coaches at all levels and with this goal in mind, we are working with the International Cricket Council and the Asian Cricket Council to conduct several coaching courses here in Malaysia in order to get the local coaches to produce quality players.
The journey is continuous and we will keep going.