Jayasinghe leads push to bowl over Cambodia
Former Hong Kong coach Lal Jayasinghe faces a new challenge - taking cricket to Cambodia, which could be the newest country to be bowled over by the allure of a sport which is now part of the Asian Games.
Jayasinghe (pictured) will be at the forefront of a push by a Hong Kong-based Indian company, Vinayakam Technologies, which is behind the drive to introduce a game totally alien to the local population.
But with the advent of cricket - the Twenty20 version - at the last Asian Games in Guangzhou, sports officials in Cambodia are keen to come to terms with the arcane cricketing language, from silly mid-off and fine leg to a googly and a chinaman, and have jumped on board.
'This will be an exciting challenge, but from what I have seen, they are very keen to have a crack at cricket,' said Jayasinghe, a Sri Lankan, who has been involved in the development of the game in Hong Kong for nearly two decades.
The initiative was started by Rudrapriya Sports, a unit of Vinayakam Technologies, and its director Manish Sharma, whose close contacts with the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia has paved the way.
A fortnight ago, the Cambodia Cricket Association was launched in Phnom Penh with Vath Chamroeun, secretary general of the Cambodia Olympic Committee, being named as its first president. Sharma, who is also based in Hong Kong, is the vice-president of the new association.
'People here watch a lot of cricket on the Indian channels we get here. But the local people do not know much about the game,' Chamroeun was quoted as saying in The Phnom Penh Post. 'We need to educate the public on this game which is so popular in countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.'
Sharma added: 'We take this as a challenge. We know it is a tough task but we are prepared for it. I am confident within the next three years we can get a good grassroots programme in place. Our thrust will be aimed at schools.'
Initially the innings in Cambodia will get underway with funds from the Indian technology company, but in the long run the Asian Cricket Council is expected to come in with substantial funds - once again highlighting the importance of spreading the game in the region.
At present, discounting the four test-playing nations from Asia, the ACC has 22 member-countries, from Afghanistan to the United Arab Emirates. Afghanistan is the top-ranked associate country from Asia, being part of the ICC World Cricket League Division One.
'In 2005, Rumesh Ratnayake [ACC development manager] visited Cambodia to explore the idea of starting cricket there but nothing came of it. We hope this will now be the beginning of something wonderful,' said Jayasinghe.
A Cricket Australia Level 3 coach, Jayasinghe will spend almost six months a year, for the next three years, in Cambodia spearheading the promotional efforts.
'We have signed an agreement with the Cambodia Olympic Committee, established a national cricket association, and now all that remains is to get down to work and get the children involved,' says Jayasinghe, who has set a deadline of February 2012 for the start of a new league in Phnom Penh.
A five-year-plan has already been drawn up, and, if everything goes well, Asia and the world will have a new cricketing nation soon.