DAMBER SINGH GURUNG: STUDENT AND MASTER

There seems to be an upward trend results-wise and so how are you looking at the upcoming ACC U-19 tournament?
We are looking forward to the U-19 tournament in January 2008 and I hope we can get good results. This is also the first time we are playing an ACC U-19 tournament. Even the U-17 will have mostly the same boys from the U-15 squads because they come with so much more experience at playing international games.

Among your players, who are the ones who are most proud of?
I think Jigme Singye (the current U-15 captain) is the ideal person. He has the attitude and character and also has a routine. He comes for training, goes back, showers, studies, eats and then sleeps. He’s got a program to almost everything and is the quiet, reserved type of boy. I’ve been working with him since he was 12 years-old and he has showed a lot of character. I am very proud of what he’s turned out to be and his entire team look up to him.

Damber working with Jigme Singye on his leg-spin

After bringing Bhutan so far, what is the next thing to help you advance further?
Right now the base is in Thimphu but now we know that it is very hard to get grounds there and that is the main concern. So we are trying to shift to southern Bhutan where people are very enthusiastic to be coached. We are most likely shifting to Samchi where there is a lot of ground and where we can have the facilities so that the boys can play to their best abilities.

What goals have you set for cricket in Bhutan?
Two years ago I had given a plan stating that within three years there would be school and club cricket and enough coaches. This is the second year and by next year I should fully accomplish this. Once this is done, I want to have national players in all age-groups. From here on we should work ourselves into the Elite divisions in all age-groups and I want to give the players as many matches as possible to get results, even with the senior team.

Damber runs through fielding drills with the U-15 squad

Which countries do you feel you can defeat in the Elite division?
I think it depends. Preparation is very important and if I had the chance to spend more time with the boys and possessed better facilities, we can fight harder in the games with the bigger teams. Against Nepal in 2004, we were 40 for 1, it was our last game and soon we were all out for 75. But at one point Nepal themselves were 40 for 5. So I guess you can see that there is a fighting spirit within us that wants to succeed.

Do you coach the players watching games on the TV or matches on DVDs?
I do try to show them their strong points and mistakes so they practice to rectify their errors. Currently, we do not have the SiliconCOACH but they say we’re going to buy it. I am yet to record games to show the kids but I encourage them to watch the games to learn from there. Next year onwards we’re going to have a camera, SiliconCOACH and the video analysis so this should really help them see what their strengths and weaknesses are.

A club team from Melbourne feted in Thimphu’s Royal Pavilion,2004

Does Bhutan want to invite more foreign teams to play?
Once things go all right in Gelephu, we would like to invite teams. We have good relations with Assam and we can go play there so we’re building good relations with our neighboring countries so that we can get help in cricket. Recently we got a call from Siliguri in West Bengal – they called us to play cricket. Unfortunately we were leaving but we’re going there end December with our U-19 squad.

What about the climate in Bhutan, is it suitable for cricket?
At times it’s really cold. In winter the boys can’t even catch the ball. And when it’s too cold or wet, in the morning hours we start after 10:30 just to let the dew dry up until 1 in the afternoon. After that it gets really windy. But in the summer, we play three to four hours.

If you only play for such short periods of time, how do the players build up their match stamina?
One advantage is that all the players play different sports, being in school. People in Bhutan are quite strong because of their diet which has a lot of rice and meat. And in whatever sport they play, they put in a 100% at all times.

What is the favourite sport of Bhutan?
It’s not cricket yet! Archery is by far the national sport. People are crazy about it. They are doing it everywhere, all the time. Over roads, in parks.

Does the King of Bhutan know about cricket?
Well once, he was at an archery tournament whilst we were playing club cricket close by and someone asked us about the game and we explained it. But now he is aware thanks to the media since there is news about the games in newspapers.

Are you still playing for the national team? Will you be in the 2008 ACC Trophy?
I am trying. If I am fit, I will definitely train and go for it but I haven’t had the time since the boys are doing so well. But if my country needs me, I will surely play.

Batting in domestic cricket in Thimphu

Filed December 27 2007