Indonesia February 3, 2009

Indonesia aiming to be the next Afghanistan

While all attention is on Afghanistan and their seemingly relentless progress towards the 2011 World Cup, their success story has served to inspire others around globe.





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While all attention is on Afghanistan and their seemingly relentless progress towards the 2011 World Cup, their success story has served to inspire others around globe.

Twenty years ago cricket was almost unknown in Indonesia, but then a few expats started to play and the game has taken off beyond their wildest dreams.

"Because the expatriates needed more people to make their teams of 11 players, they started to ask locals to join. And it turned out that some of the locals were excellent players," Cricket Indonesia chairman Sachin Gopalan told AFP. "It used to be only social games played by expatriates. But it has changed."

Local associations were formed to administer the clubs, and eight years ago a national board came into being. It is now estimated that as many as 30,000 people play the game, a three-fold increase in two years.

"Cricket is growing exponentially here and there is a lot of hidden natural talent," Gopalan said.

Australian vet Bruce Christie is credited with being among the first to raise the status of the game in the 1990s. "I had to keep my 11-year-old son amused," Christie told AFP. "So we started playing cricket and invited about 20 to 30 local people of mixed ages to play."

Matches were played on any flat ground that could be found, mainly on football pitches and hard tennis courts. "The locals picked up the game pretty quickly as they'd played 'kasti' [a local bat-and-ball game] before and they were good at throwing stones at birds or whatever. I also had videos and books to show them. We also had an Australian female teacher in Kupang who played with us. I think she attracted the locals to join."

To keep things in perspective, cricket is not even recognised by the country's sports council as an official sport, but the ICC is interested and in July Indonesia stages its first competition, an East Asia-Pacific region Under-15 event.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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