Nestled as it is in the heart of the Himalayas, for centuries none but the most intrepid made it through the steep mountain passes to reach proudly independent Bhutan. Archery being the national sport guaranteed the country considerable protection against invaders. But the Bhutanese were helpless before the onslaught of electromagnetic waves carrying television signals.
Starting in 2001, Indian television started threading its way through the highlands, and in its wake came an appreciation for movies, soap operas, and cricket.
Out of a population of around 740,000, 2500 are regular cricketers, with the numbers having risen 10% from 2012 to 2013. The biggest ground in the capital Thimphu (2.3 km above sea level) isn’t quite big enough for ICC-sanctioned cricket but serves its purpose in training the national senior and youth teams. They even play in the winter months, braving intermittent sleet and snow. Administrators are currently trying to maximize playing opportunities by taking the game south towards the plains and the Indian border, to take advantage of the land and climate more conducive to cricket than in Thimphu and plans to make use of a site in the region are advanced. Cricket is being taken to the schools and forms a fundamental part of the BCCB’s development program.
Wherever they are, wherever they play, the cricketers retain a unique Bhutanese flavor. All batsmen bow their heads in supplication to the cricketing gods before taking the field. “We do not pray for victory”, says national captain Damber Singh Gurung, “we pray for each other to give our best and to emerge completely from the competition.” The Dechephu Lhakhang temple in Thimphu is the spiritual home of Bhutan Cricket and cricketers visit before every tournament to invoke the protecting deities.
The team regularly yo-yo between the top two groups though of late have found their opponents at senior and U-19 level relatively stronger. Lack of sufficient turf facilities for training and matchplay have been significantly hampering progress and the promise of earlier years is in danger of being unrealized.