Harnam Singh, 67, is a fixture of the Singapore cricket scene. A former national player, taking in two ICC Trophys for the country and currently Vice President of the Singapore Cricket Association he is a man of wisdom, good humour and considerable energy, carrying his years and accomplishments with an easy grace.

He spoke to us in the UAE, where he was managing Singapore at the ACC Twenty20 Cup.

"Cricket is very much alive in Singapore."

Were you part of a cricketing family?
Yes, my late elder brother played cricket for Singapore. He migrated to England when he was 19. He had played one game for Singapore and then what happened was when I was 10 we moved into a community where there were British and Australian forces. There was a little ground close by our home and these guys made a cricket pitch and they used to play every Wednesday because they worked half days on Wednesdays.

I was very curious and used to watch them play and sometimes when they were short of players, they’d ask me if I wanted to play. I had no clue what the game was about but I just ran around and fielded but there was no batting involved. Eventually one of the Australians started coaching some of us and I picked up the game from there. I played for my school and the Singapore Under-23s and I represented Singapore from 1967 to 1990. In between 1984 to 1987 I completely stopped playing cricket. I had other interests and in late 1989 I came back to play, after which the following year I was called up to play for Singapore in the ICC Trophy at the age of 48! A lot of the current crop of administrators in Singapore played in that one!

What was the cricket culture in the 1950s and 1960s in Singapore when you were playing? Was it part of the school sports curriculum?
Yes it very much was a part of the curriculum. There was a lot of cricket being played because of the British forces. There were so many grounds and turf pitches. It is very unlike now where all the grounds have been taken over by the government or the armed forces and are converted into apartments or something or the other. To get a cricket field now is very difficult.

Singapore captain Rezza Gaznavi with the 2007 ACC U-15 Elite Cup

Is cricket still in the schools?
It died down for many years but it’s been brought back into the school’s curriculum. Some of the current national squad, like Rezza Gaznavi, have played for their schools in the different age-groups.

Are they international schools or Indian and Chinese schools which have cricket?
There aren’t many Chinese schools which have cricket but there are more international schools that teach and practice the game. Cricket is very much alive in Singapore.

When you were playing was cricket supported in the newspapers?
Yes, very much so. There was a lot of cricket coverage. You could get detailed scores and the scorecard and apparently there was a lot of people who worked for the newspapers who played cricket. We also used to be a stopover for many cricket teams like India would stop over on their way to Australia and New Zealand would also stop over.

What have been the most significant changes in Singapore’s players ‘then and now’?
When I was playing cricket, there was mainly all local boys playing Singapore and being how it is academics gets first priority. Every parent wants academics first and then after that there’s this national service where you serve in the Singaporean army for two years. I have noticed that when they go for their national service, they lose interest in the game after that. It takes a very heavy toll on them and after that they go overseas for training and when they get home, they’d rather sleep than play cricket.

Now though there is an influx of expats in Singapore which the government encourages. That has brought up the numbers of cricketers. We then had a scheme of taking foreign players into our country. The standard then and now has progressed.

Has Malaysia always been a natural rival?
Not really rivals. We are friendly to one another and a lot of Malaysian boys play in our league. We encourage foreign players to play in our league but restrict it to three per team. There are also people from Sri Lanka who fly in every week to play. The Lanka Lions have three foreign players; two from Sri Lanka who fly in whenever their club plays. We do this because we want to raise the standard of the game and I think it’s going on the right track. The only problem is the lack of grounds because we are very land scarce.

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