Bhutan’s cricketing stalwart Tshering Dorji talks about the game in his country
Nestled in the heart of the Himalayas, Bhutan is probably one of the most beautiful places on earth. When we think of this small kingdom, we generally picture stunning landscapes cloaked with snow and tress. It is thus hard to visualise cricket in this astoundingly beautiful place.
However, not many would know that the game of cricket is not just popular here but it is thriving and climbing its way into the hearts of all the common folks, slowly but steadily.
It was in the late 1990s that cricket exploded onto the scene in Bhutan, when television was finally introduced here and the average people got the chance to witness exciting cricket matches of their Indian neighbours. Soon the Bhutan Cricket Council (BCC) was founded in 2000 and became a fully operational component of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) in 2002. Since then the national side has participated and performed well in many ACC organized tournaments and has also played twice in the International Cricket Council World Cricket League. The biggest ground is in the capital Thimpu, which though might not be as huge as the Eden Gardens; it provides sufficient space for budding cricketers to hone their cricketing skills.
Even women cricket is taking giant strides here as recently the Bhutan Cricket Council Board (BCCB) won the ‘Best Women’s Cricket Initiative’ award during the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) development programme annual awards 2012 held for the Asian Region. Cricket in Bhutan might take some time to compete at an international level, but the fact that it has reached thus far with such limited resources and time is an achievement in itself. With a population of about hardly a million, very few were interested in cricket initially, but that has changed significantly over the years due to contributions from many people. Tshering Dorji is one of those.
Dorji is one of the stalwarts of cricket in Bhutan and is playing a pivotal role of taking his country’s name to the international arena. The ex-captain of the national cricket side, Dorji currently is the vice-captain of his team and is also the Events Manager at BCCB.
One of the senior most players in the country, Dorji has been there since cricket was officially formed in Bhutan and is now helping it grow further by being in the administration and imparting his coaching skills to budding cricketers. In this exclusive interview, Dorji opens up on cricket in Bhutan, on how it has evolved over the years, him as a cricketer and much more.
Excerpts from an interview.
Tell us a bit about yourself? What does cricket mean to you?
Tshering Dorji (TD): I am married with a little daughter. I’m working as the events manager for the Bhutan Cricket Council Board for the last five years. I also work as a coach for the junior teams in the country. I started playing cricket with friends from 2002 and never looked back ever since. Cricket to me is everything because it has taught me a lot; be it concerning personality or life experiences. More than anything else it has taught me the most important thing i.e. it’s not over till the last ball is bowled.
What would you like to say about the current status of cricket in Bhutan? How much has it evolved over the years?
TD: I think cricket has evolved a lot in the last decade in Bhutan; from a sport that barely anyone knew to a sport that is competing and doing well in and outside Bhutan. Today we have about 24 school tournaments going on in a cricketing calendar and three top club level tournaments in the country. If you were to look at the track record of cricket in the country, I think we are second to none as we have five international trophies to prove it.
What role do you play in uplifting and promoting the cricket condition in your country?
TD: I was there when cricket was first officially formed in our country in 2002, when all the board members held the first meeting, the first international match at Katmandu, Nepal. So you can say that I have watched cricket grow from a sapling and wish to see it grow into a lush green tree. I think as a senior player I am doing my best in promoting the game amongst youth, who are the future by coaching them and to the business community to sponsor these cricket ventures so that it stays consistent.
How does the average cricket enthusiast in Bhutan look at world cricket at the moment?
TD: The average cricketer here in Bhutan is aware of all the tournament and names in the game, but for a Bhutanese to make an impact I think it will take some time and dedication. The people here in Bhutan are very emotional like in India so they are a bit on the impatient side as they want to see result as quickly as possible but I think as cricket grows more in the country the people will also learn to be patient.
What prompted you to take the game of cricket professionally? Who are your inspirations or role models in cricket? Has there been any cricketer from Bhutan who has inspired you?
TD: I think the 1999 cricket World Cup in England woke that cricket worm inside me and as I played the game regularly I began to love it even more. In the beginning there was nobody to teach us, so we watched the matches and copied the moves and style of the stars on the screen. I think the best quality in me is that I listen more than talk so it has helped me a lot hence I listened to a lot of cricket commentary during matches where they gave a lot of insightful information on all the aspects of the game. I implied those aspects and worked on them. The first cricketer I saw on screen was Rahul Dravid and he was batting. I consider myself lucky to have seen him first as he is still the most technically sound batsman in the world and he really inspired me in my batting. Now I think cricket has evolved a lot but as the saying goes “Form is temporary but class is permanent” I still believe in test cricket and enjoy it a lot because that’s where a true cricketer is tested. Jigme Singye a 21-year-old boy who led the Under-15 and Under-19 sides and now is also leading the senior team is doing very well and making the country proud. He is what a young cricketer in Bhutan should look up to because he has everything that makes a good cricketer. He is doing his law in India and has recently got an offer from Ireland to play for a club there. I hope and wish the best for him. He is right now the inspiration for many cricket lovers in Bhutan.
How much of Indian cricket do you follow and what do you feel about it? Have you ever got the chance to interact with any Indian cricketer?
TD: I think all cricketers in Bhutan follow Indian cricket and cricketers religiously. I personally feel that the current Indian team is at its best right now but the only thing they lack is consistency. I have been fortunate enough to meet ex Indian cricketer Roger Binny who was our former Asian Cricket Council (ACC) development officer. I also got to meet Robin Singh when he was the coach of the Hong Kong national side.
What do you feel needs to be done to get the youth of Bhutan involved in cricket more passionately?
TD: I think first and foremost is the finance. Look, everything boils down to money at the end of the day; you can do so much with passion only and to take it further you need the private companies and the government to take sports seriously. Sport is not a career in Bhutan so I think it will take quite some time to develop this thought seriously.
What has been your best cricketing moment until now?
TD: I would say my first trophy as a captain in Chang Mai, Thailand during the ACC Challenge Trophy 2009.
Any young talented cricketer from Bhutan that you feel can make it big in the coming few years in the international arena?
TD: I don’t know about the international arena but definitely in a smaller but significant way I think Jigme Singye whom I have mentioned earlier would make a definite and massive impact.
Do you feel a positive difference in the cricket infrastructure today in your country compared to your time? If yes, what are they?
Definitely yes. Back then we had to learn by watching cricket on TV and reading about it, but now the youth has everything like synthetic practice nets in a lot of districts, local coaches for help and even equipment for free. We are also working on an international sized ground coming up soon in Sarpang, a bordering city to India. Here we will have an academy and hostel for cricketers, where they will be groomed as future talents.
Given the limited infrastructure that Bhutan has, how far do you think Bhutan can go in cricket? How long do you think it will take for your country to get into the big league?
TD: The main issue is the geographical structure of Bhutan as it is all mountains. We are thus facing a problem in building a good sized ground but we are addressing these issues and once they are done then I think its impact would be immense. Given the progress we are having right now, I think it will take a good 25-30 years in the future for Bhutan to compete well in the Asian cricket council’s elite.
Apart from cricket what interests you the most? How do you spend your free time?
TD: My whole world revolves around my family and now I have an eight-month old daughter whom I can’t stay away from, so most of my free time is spent in family gatherings and picnics. I also have a lot of friends and I love travelling, shopping and cooking outdoors.
What is your goal now? How long do you plan to play cricket?
TD: My goal right now is to make cricket the number one sport in the country. I want to see all the young cricketers getting the opportunity to shine and become a force to reckon with. As for me I have thought of hanging up my boots this year primarily because I want to get involved full-time in the foundation work for cricket in Bhutan and build a better future and opportunity for future talents.