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Binny happy to promote the game in SEA

By Our Sports Reporter

BANGALORE, DEC. 21. A gawky lad sprinting full tilt barefoot and bowling fast in a remote village in Thailand, is a memory that Roger Binny cherishes. It is a recent memory jostling for space in a mind that also relishes those champagne moments of 1983 when his 18 wickets played a key role in India winning the World Cup.

The former India allrounder has been busy in the last three years as a Development Officer with the Asian Cricket Council (ACC). And with a brief to promote cricket in South East Asia, Binny often finds his happiness in watching the game make inroads into the hinterland of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and other adjoining areas. "It was amazing to see those Thai kids bowling without shoes, batting with broken bats and still playing with a tough spirit. Perhaps it is the poverty and their physical strength that drives them," he said while gearing up for another trip to Singapore and Thailand following the renewal of his contract with the ACC.

`Catch them young' is the dictum that governs Binny's approach to nurturing cricket in the emerging Nations of the ACC. "We try and get the schools interested in cricket. We are trying to get hold of the local and indigenous people as the expatriate kids will not be there forever. We are trying to tap local talent because only then will the government and the local sport councils support the game. The bigger challenge is that these kids have never seen the game. For instance in Thailand, kids had not seen a cricket ball or bat but they have improved in the last three years and now there are 600 local Thais playing the game out of which six have made it to the national side," Binny said.

The joy of seeing a country strike its first cricketing roots is also marred by the frustration of working in an environment that is not cricket-friendly. Binny concedes: "Sometimes it is frustrating because of where I come from, here there is so much passion for the game but out there (emerging Asian Countries), cricket is just a Sunday game and something that is not an Olympic sport. We have to get them into a serious mould and with the ICC, ACC and Cricket Australia stepping in, there is more awareness. Now that cricket has been included in the Asian Games it will probably help promote the game."

On the teams to watch out for among the ACC's member Countries, Binny said, "in 15 to 20 years we would like to see China regularly playing in ODIs, besides the five Fast Track countries — Malaysia, Singapore, Nepal, UAE and Hong Kong but at the grassroots level Nepal has made great progress and is the best right now while Thailand will dominate the ACC in the next 15 years." In the long run, Binny would love to nurture junior cricket in Karnataka. However at present, he would rather convince hesitant players to believe in their talent under the skies that spread across Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.

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