DAMBER SINGH GURUNG: STUDENT AND MASTER

What are the difficulties faced when playing cricket in Bhutan?
I think it’s mainly the lack of cricket grounds. Either they are too small or they do not exist. In the south of Bhutan it is like Thailand’s Chiang Mai where there are grounds but in the north and Thimphu there aren’t very many. Thimphu is already very crowded. There are a lot of people who want to play cricket but don’t have anywhere to play the game.

Thimphu

What wickets do you play on in Bhutan?
We play on synthetic wickets.

Since you’ve started in 1999, how have the numbers playing cricket grown?
I can say there are more than a thousand students involved. There are cricket development projects in Gelephu, Phuntsholing, Samchi, Paro and Thimphu. Most of the boys in the team are from different places but they came to Thimphu to study.

How much of your work is spent traveling the country?
I travel all over the country. If I work in Thimphu I do send someone for assessment and make a program for them. If it’s a new place, I go there, especially if it’s a coaching course. Next year, I will be going to Samchi to the NIE (National Institute of Education) where there is a teachers’ training course.

Inducting a new batch of cricketers in Gelephu

Where has this energy and enthusiasm to coach children, women, schoolteachers come from?
My members have given me so much support in the coaching area. From my point of view, I see it as a responsibility handed over to me to nurture and look after this game’s growth in Bhutan. All the programs I make are discussed with everyone and the idea is to do something and to get somewhere in this game. We are looking at internal development and so even if my team gets beaten badly, in the future you will see the difference in their game. So we are working twice as hard now to see this game thrive in the future.

Teachers being taken through the basics

How do the national players support themselves? Do they have jobs?
It is hard to get a job in Bhutan, therefore sportspeople usually quit because it’s impossible to get anything. But hopefully in two or three years’ time, sports will really grow and since people are dedicated, it can only bring positive results.

Most of our players are students. Recently there were three national players, two are 17 year-olds and the other is 18, they played under-15 as well. So what I’ve done is put them in my coaching department to look after kids and they are sent to coach in some private schools as well as to work with girls. I am trying to support them because not all of them are educated and maybe if they continue playing cricket they can learn coaching from me too.

Did you go to university in Thimphu?
No, I went looking for a job. I was 18 or 19 then. Thimphu is the fastest growing city here and I just wanted to learn something. Cricket was just another game that came to me and I started playing there. I was just so interested in the game even though we never got paid.

Are you now in employment with the Bhutan Cricket Council or do you have outside work?
I am now working for cricket and am enjoying it immensely.

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