Sultan Rana resumed service at the Pakistan Cricket Board in April 2008, after three years as the Asian Cricket Council’s Development Manager.
We spoke to him prior to his departure.
"Cricket teaches you a lot about character and discipline."
What did you know about the ACC before you started working for it?
When I first came I didn’t exactly know of the work being carried out by the ACC to be honest, but I was involved in previous ACC tournaments as a match or tournament referee. When I first started I found it a little difficult and I was uncomfortable but within a few months I picked up and learnt more about the organization and the development they put into the game. Normally when you are from a Test playing country and work with a Test playing cricket board, you do not really bother or discuss about the development of the game in other parts of the world. Hence it was quite new for me but I soon found it interesting and it was a way for me to give back something to cricket, the game I played for more than 20 years.
|With ICC President Ray Mali, Chennai 2007|
I wasn’t too aware of the funding part of it either as to where the money came from but gradually I came to know about the inside workings; where the money comes from, how the ICC and ACC generates the funds. I found it encouraging knowing that millions and millions of dollars are being ploughed into just the development of cricket. As far as I know and as Asia is concerned, it is money well spent as we have been increasing the number of our member countries. With 18 countries as our members now, we are still looking to add more to that list.
What are the positives of the game?
Cricket is actually one of the few sports that has no body contact and yet it teaches you a lot about character and discipline and also to be a team player. I very strongly believe that any team that plays for the sake of its team and not individual gain is going to be very hard to beat. Cricket is a wonderful sport and I hope other countries pick up the game as we’ve tried to introduce it to the junior and grassroots level but it ultimately comes down to the associations to get the game started.
What do you mean by ‘grassroots’?
When I say ‘grassroots’ I am specifically pointing to school cricket; and to start school cricket one needs to join hands with the concerned government departments. It is definitely not easy and because it is not a professional sport, the administrators find it difficult to bring people to the game.
There is a big gap between administration and players but I think this gap can be reduced through schools and the concerned associations should maintain this as their prime responsibility. Real development is the involvement of the local and indigenous people and not the development of the expatriate game. Expatriate cricket may be important for the growth of the game but it is not true development of cricket.
What would you do to get locals involved in cricket?
To make it more attractive to the local people, we may need to modify the game; maybe six or eight a side or even beach cricket. But we encounter problems at the administration level where if you see, all our Middle East members have someone from the royal family in them. What is the use if they’re not able to start and develop the game in their own country? The only reason for this that I can see is that there is someone powerful in the association and therefore problems can be sorted out quickly. There are some countries in which these people have not been able to get hold of a piece of land to play cricket. These people are not accessible to the secretaries and members of the associations and therefore there is no communication as well. There is a lot of money in the Middle East and I feel that once the interest is generated, then they will not hold back on the funding of anything in regard to the game.
|Hussain Al-Shatti, pictured here bewails Kuwait’s defeat in the 2007 ACC U-15 Elite Cup, is one of two Arab boys in the team|
To instill interest into a child who has little or no idea of the game, they must be shown and allowed to play a shorter; more ‘informal’ form of the game so that they can gain knowledge and interest in cricket. And once they continue with the game, it is certain that they will fall in love with cricket and hopefully go on and continue to play the longer version of the game. Street cricket and beach cricket are forms of the game by which many of today’s players have come through. At some point when they were young, the big names in cricket have played either street or beach cricket, sometimes even both. To play cricket, you have to either be born in a Test playing country or into a family that follows the game but to bring someone out to play cricket is quite difficult. Hence there has to be interesting opportunities that need to be provided. Quick cricket can be played even in recess, a three or four over game can be monitored by the right people in the school who encourage these boys to play.
A teacher or coach is not only someone who tells you how to hold the bat or ball. The coach needs to inspire and motivate you to play and must have good communication skills to relate to all people around him as well as the ability to command respect. Teachers in school in our days used to teach us cricket and other games but in these developing countries there has to be a start somewhere. KwikCricket is the best solution or maybe even cricket carnivals.