A national player between 1993 and 2005, Mamatha Maben captained India in her last two years as a cricketer. Having been appointed coach of the Chinese women's national team, on the recommendation of the Indian Board, she has a unique role that requires her not only to coach the team, but to encourage women to take up the game in the People's Republic.
At China's first warm-up game, at the Kinrara Oval, in the build up to the ACC Women's Twenty20 Championship, Ms. Maben sat down for an interview with the ACC.
"China being a part of the cricketing community adds to the brand value of international cricket."
Prior to coaching – what did you do?
"I used to work for a newspaper called Asian Age but that was only for about a year. I then moved into working for a web portal called ‘That’s cricket’. Cricket-wise, I played my professional cricket from 1993 but after a shoulder injury I wasn’t selected for the national team for about nine years. I made my comeback to the national squad in 2001 and then retired from international cricket in 2004. From 2004 onwards I have continued to play for my state team, Karnataka, until I was offered this job."
|Maben speaking with Chinese women’s captain Mei Chun Hua|
What was your initial reaction when you found out that cricket was being played in China?
"Actually at the time there were a lot of media articles flying around in India saying that the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) were trying to help out the CCA (Chinese Cricket Association) by providing cricketing equipments. There was also a report to say that the BCCI was to send a coach over to China. I’ve been offered a couple of coaching positions before but had turned them down because I always thought I was able to play cricket for a few more years. When I applied for this post I was lucky to get it and was actually quite happy to be taking on the task of coaching Chinese women and thought that this really was the team for me."
What are the advantages coaching a country completely new to the game?
"The main advantages are that you have the ability to start from scratch. Even if they are doing something wrong, you can basically mould them to your liking because they are starting fresh. This makes it easier to a certain extent."
How have the past few months been coaching the Chinese women? What are the biggest challenges you faced?
“The game is very new and foreign to them there but the biggest hurdle was the language barrier. Communication is very important in cricket so conversing with them was vital. Even though there is a translator, I’m sure the message translated is not a 100%. They did not have any idea of the sport because they’ve never seen it being played so the only time they watched the game on TV was when they were showed videos of matches. I’ve only had about 12 weeks or so coaching them but it has been a real pleasure for me. “
|On the offensive for Chinese cricket development|
What is so nice about being able to coach them?
“First and most importantly, they are always keen to perform at every level. Their dedication and grasp of the game is astonishing and I give them full credit. When I first came some of the girls were reluctant to play their shots but now they are driving at will. Give them some time and a lot more exposure and I’m sure in about five years’ time, they will be challenging the top-rung women’s cricket teams.”
This is your first ACC tournament – what are your expectations from it?
"I expect nothing less than to win this tournament. I’ve heard that Hong Kong and Nepal are very good sides but to be fair to my team, I haven’t seen the opposition as yet so I can’t really judge. I will be training my team to play spin and we will definitely try to win. Realistically, to even reach the finals would be a really good feeling for all of us."
The BCCI and PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) are working hard to promote cricket in China. Why do you feel development of cricket in China is so vital for the game?
"Given that China not only pick up the game but also play the game well, then cricket can actually be developed globally. The country has a very important role in that aspect and I am sure they can display their competitive side in this game as well. It is when the Chinese public is interested then the game will explode onto the scene. China being a part of the cricketing community adds to the brand value of international cricket."