On a recent visit to Kuala Lumpur, Tim Anderson, the ICC East Asia-Pacific Regional Development Manager, talked about his role as the region’s premier cricket missionary.
It used to be only the most intrepid or zealous who would dare to introduce something new to the countries in this region, be it for religious or commercial motives. Several of these hardy gentlemen were even killed in the line of duty.
So what motivates Tim to go as boldly as he does into countries such as Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Vanuatu, Samoa, The Cook Islands, Fiji, Tonga. South Korea, Japan and The Philippines?
“If we don’t go, cricket in those countries won’t benefit as much as if we were there. That’s my motivating factor!”
What are your development activities?
"Our focus is on building the game up from youth level and we aim to develop an infrastructure that will allow a good level of Junior competition. We go to primary schools, villages, and clubs and hold demonstrations, coaching sessions and tournaments."
For boys and girls?
"For boys and girls. Right now it’s estimated that between 15,000 to 20,000 children across the East-Asia Pacific are playing cricket."
That’s a lot!
"Yeah, and some of these children really give up a lot to play cricket. The ones who love it, really love it."
How did you get started as a cricketer yourself?
“I grew up in a cricket family, even my mum played cricket. Growing up in Australia, I can’t remember ever not playing cricket. It was just a natural progression all the way up to state level.” (Tim was a middle-order batsman and leg-spinner – with career bests of 167 and 4-45) "I played for and captained Victoria and Australia U-19’s at the Youth World Cup in South Africa, 1998.” (A tournament studded with future senior-level stars such as Owais Shah and Robert Key of England; Mohammad Kaif, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Ramesh Pawar of India; Kyle Mills, Michael Papps and Lou Vincent of New Zealand; Abdul Razzak and Shoaib Malik of Pakstan; Jacques Rudolph of South Africa; Ramnaresh Sarwan and Ryan Hinds of the West Indies; Mark Vermeulen and Dion Ebrahim of Zimbabwe. PNG was one of the eight competitors, the tournament was won by England .)
“I also played some 2nd XI cricket for Victoria, and was a scholar at the Australian Cricket Academy in 1998.”
How hard is it to create a cricket culture in the countries under your remit?
"Luckily we’re not actually trying to create a culture. What we’re looking to do is just give children who want to try the game a chance to find out more about it, and then really get them excited about the game."
Is there ever a danger, for example, in the way that English became pidgin English for many of the countries in your region, that the kind of cricket played won’t actually quite be cricket?
" Our job is to ensure that doesn’t happen! At junior level the primary emphasis is on fun and just getting the kids to hit the ball. There’s a pretty good system of Kanga cricket which has proven to be effective in Australia, that we get all the kids to play. As they get older things get more competitive and coaching and training come into play. Papua New Guinea (PNG) get a direct feed from Channel 9 (in Australia) and get to see the best level of cricket there is, on a regular basis."
Which country is the biggest challenge in terms of development?
"Well, they’re all challenging and exciting in different ways."
If you were a player, which country would you most like to play in?
"A game was played in Japan with the snow-capped peak of Mount Fuji looming in the distance, so that would be an awesome place to play. Japan itself has a pretty strong cricket presence at the university level and there’s a strong league system. Fiji have a decent team, the strongest in the region along with PNG, and they both have a chance to qualify for the next World Cup."
This is via the World Cup Qualifying Series to be held in Malaysia next February?
"Yes, Fiji and PNG have qualified from our region and they’ll be up against Nepal, Qatar and Oman and three countries from Europe. This trip (on my way from Australia to Lord’s for a Development Managers’ Meeting) gives me a good opportunity to assess the conditions here for our two teams and of course, meet with the ACC staff and CEO and the Malaysian Cricket Association."
How competitive is your region with the ACC?
"As administrators we’re all into developing cricket. But on the field people can’t underestimate Fiji or PNG – they have some terrific players, a couple of them are rugby internationals too."
What are the ambitions for cricket’s development in your the region?
"We’ve been very active so far and will continue to be so. Our job would be twice as hard without the terrific support of volunteers and enthusiasts across the region who do so much to keep the joy of cricket alive. Plus, the kids play a big part too. It’s always a great feeling to see the look on someone’s face the first time they really middle the ball!"