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Teams from across South East Asia joined local combinations for the first Vietnam Sixes in Ho Chi Minh City last week. The visitors from Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok and Phnom Penh joined four composite teams made up of players from the local competition in the ten-team event held on February 6-7.
There are seven teams in the Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) league but to provide the visitors with some competition, the 'locals' (who are nearly all expats) were moulded into four combinations named for sponsors - the Vietnam Cricket Association (VCA) Drunken Duck, VCA Tandoor, VCA Phattys and VCA Bar No 5. The move perhaps worked too well, with Ho Chi Minh City teams winning two of three major prizes - Tandoor beat Phattys to win the Sixes Cup, Bar No 5 defeated Singapore's Spirits CC to win the Plate while Misfits CC beat fellow Singaporean club Freehits CC to win the Consolation Final. Angelo Perera, the Tandoor captain and captain of the local Sri Lankan Sports Club team won the award for he most sixes.
Misfits have been regular visitors to HCMC and visiting teams are not unusual, but this was the first time there had been a tournament on this sort of scale, according to Vietnam Cricket Association President, Terry Gordon. "There have been teams come across to Saigon (HCMC) and Hanoi (many years ago) to play one-off games. Nothing like this. We wanted to create a friendly atmosphere, with competitive cricket and free time to enjoy our adopted city."
The tournament was played at Vietnam's only cricket ground, a tree-lined oval at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Saigon South, the HCMC campus of a Melbourne educational facility. Predictably, the pitch consists of a synthetic wicket on a concrete slab.
As with most countries where cricket is virtually unheard of, ground availability remains a core issue. "Every year the university hints that we might not get use of the ground for too much longer - we're competing with other sports - Aussie Rules, rugby, football, frisbee. And each of those sports has attracted locals. Unfortunately we suffer from 'bad-press' as many expats (Americans) and locals just don't understand the rules and think the game goes for too long," warns Gordon.
There's a couple of Australian Vietnamese who play for the Saigon Australian Cricket Club but they are the exception in a land where the culture whose people prefer the indoors in the middle of the day.
Officials of the VCA are all expatriate businessmen whose first priority is to their businesses and and/or employers so the VCA is hoping to forge links with the Asian Cricket Council to expand past their 'foreign' base.
The VCA is also looking to restart the competition in Hanoi which died several years ago and possibly start a club in Da Nang in central Vietnam. There's still the occasional game on matting wickets in Hanoi which the local expats organise and the VCA is hopeful a team from the nation's capital will appear in next year's Sixes.
At this stage the VCA remains an informal entity, a situation which Gordon forsees won't be remedied quickly. "Nothing happens quickly here and the process can be very expensive, particularly because there are no locals playing."
Gordon says securing a ground is crucial to consolidation plans. "We're desperate for assistance from the ACC or another organisation. We really need to have 100% ownership of a ground. But need some benefactors to assist. If RMIT blocked public access to their facility, the cricket comp in Saigon would die overnight. I'm hoping we can draft a business plan in the coming 12 months, and work towards acquiring a suitable piece of land, within 20-30 minutes drive of the City centre."
For more information about cricket in Vietnam, please visit the Vietnam Cricket Association website.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Kanishkaa Balachandran
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