Michael Moosajee, 54, first started playing cricket in Myanmar (Burma) in the 1970s. Myanmar’s subsequent isolation from the world meant cricket faded into obscurity along with many other games, but he and some hardy souls played on. He captained Myanmar in their first international tournament after becoming members of the ICC, the 2006 ACC Trophy. A one-time chicken-farmer, since retirement he has dedicated himself to developing cricket in Myanmar and is joint-secretary of the Myanmar Cricket Federation, having also served as national coach.

He spoke to us in Chiang Mai during the recent ACC U-19 Challenge.

“People say Myanmar is getting better.”

Kuwait’s Mustansar Hasan with Moosajee at Myanmar’s first official match, 2006 ACC Trophy

I’ve been involved with Myanmar cricket for more than 20 years now and have also played for Chinthe, which was a club team, with my elder brother. In our country during the pre-World War II period only expatriates played the game. Only after 2006 was there an increase of local players because that was when we really started growing the game. We started with the under-15s and tried developing the game as quickly as we could.

Starting them young
We are trying to train schoolchildren and now most of the schools know about cricket. Football is still the most popular sport and we have to compete against it.

Women’s cricket also started in 2006 but a women’s team was only formed last year. Most of the women’s teams now are under-14 and under-16. I hope we can form a national women’s team soon and participate in the ACC U-19 Women’s tournament in October 2010.

Sometimes it is very hard to move around in Myanmar so even getting players to practice is difficult.

Most people don’t know how to play cricket in Myanmar but there are enough who do. We have club games, one knock-out and one Twenty20 tournament. There are eight club teams and we are hoping to grow that number as well. The club games are only played on one ground in Bahaan on a concrete wicket in the middle of a football field in Yangon.

Thanks to our MCF President’s film ‘Bo Ba’ (like ‘Lagaan’) cricket is known all over the country. The national players took part in it for the action parts. Even in the villages they saw this game. Our President Mr. U Nyunt Win is a very famous man in Myanmar because of his acting and he has been a great lover of cricket since he was a boy at school in India.

Myanmar’s youngsters have a lot to look forward to

Things are starting to look good now and the government has offered us a seven-acre piece of land and we are going to try and make an international ground there. We hope ACC can help us and maybe soon we can host ACC tournaments in the future as well. Off the 14 divisions in Myanmar, cricket has been taken to five and we will have an inter-state tournament. The Level 0 coaching course has been in five of the divisions too. We have a plan of having an inter-division tournament next year and from this we can choose more players. This will also help us play in each and every ACC tournament giving the players more exposure to cricket outside Myanmar. Maybe after a year or two we will build a strong team for both men and women.

We have an eight-month monsoon season from mid April to end October and this happens every year. Last year was very bad with typhoon Nargis. There was so much destruction last year. Because of the rains we cannot have proper training sessions since we don’t have indoor facilities. Next year I hope there will be indoor facilities which will make things much easier.

We have two Level I and two Level II coaches who are training players and more than 30 Level 0 coaches. Half of them are ladies and all of them are teachers from the schools. For them cricket is play and the children enjoy it.

Over the next three years we should have a proper ground and enjoy participating in all international tournaments and perform well for our country. People say Myanmar is getting better which is kind. As we get better other countries also do so we can never stop. I am very proud of how hard some of the boys work and it would be my biggest dream to beat more countries in the future.

Ashfaq-ul-Islam: Coaching Myanmar
Myanmar Country Profile

Filed Jan 14th, 2010