Monday, December 20, 2004

Cricketing Connections Then And Now

Cricket has never really taken off in a big way here in Malaysia. This is a bit of a surprise and a big disappointment for me. Historically, the possibilities for cricket would appear hopeful. Obviously the British - as elsewhere in the empire - brought the game and set up a rudimentary infrastructure of grounds and teams, including in some of the elite schools. The site of Malaysian independence in 1957 is the padang, a beautifully tended green space which doubles up as a cricket ground right in the middle of Kuala Lumpur. There has long been a sizeable population of Indian origin, one of the ingredients to embedding cricketing cultures elsewhere - in Trinidad, Guyana and Kenya among others as well as its impact on the English game over the last decade. And there is even some royal patronage of the game. But cricket stubbornly refuses to take off. This is a sad state of affairs.

And yet a deeper look suggests that all may not be lost. Last week the New Straits Times reported on the International Malays cricket championship which begins in Malaysia today. This brings together teams from the Malay diaspora from South Africa and Sri Lanka to compete against local opposition at different age groups. Apparently the star of the South African Malays is the wonderfully-named Rieyaan Goliath who, you've guessed it, is a hard-hitting batsman.

There is another connection between the Malay diapora and cricket that focuses on the St George's Park in Port Elizabeth, venue for the ongoing South Africa versus England test match. According to the ground's official history,
during the 1891/2 season, the Malays had the distinction of being the first ever Black South African side to play against an overseas touring side, W.W. Read’s English team. In echoes of the Basil D'Oliveira affair more than sixty years later, the star player from the Malay side, the fast bowler J. "Krom" Hendricks, was selected to go on the first South African touring team to England in 1894, but because of his colour, he was subsequently left out.

As the mighty C.L.R James told us long ago:
"What does he know of cricket who only cricket knows... ".


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with u. maybe the weather kills. football is more popular. i personally love to play and watch the game.

12:19 pm  

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