A brief history of cricket

Cricket in Singapore

Zane Whitehorn

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The first recorded game of cricket in Singapore took place in 1837 on a spot near where the Padang, the current home of cricket in Singapore, is situated. Early games were usually played against the crews of visiting ships and so it could be months or in some cases years between matches in Singapore during the 1830's and early 1840's.

However, the mid to late 1840's saw a steady influx of expatriates into the British colony and led to the founding of the Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) in 1852. The SCC is one of the oldest existing sporting clubs in the world and over the years has become an integral part of Singapore life.

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries witnessed an explosion in the popularity of cricket in Singapore, thanks in part to the success of tours like that of Lord Harris' M.C.C. side in 1883. By the late 1880's cricket had clearly become the most popular sport in Singapore as the Singapore Chinese and Eurasians flocked to take up the willow against the Europeans. There were regular tours undertaken by the SCC to China, Hong Kong, Batavia, Ceylon, Burma and Siam. It is reported that the SCC usually won these matches, although they did suffer a shock loss to the Burmese in 1906. In 1905, the first official game between Singapore and Malaya took place and the matches between the traditional rivals of Southeast Asia have continued to raise passions between the two ever since.

Cricket reached its peak in Singapore on the eve of World War One and since then a number of factors, including the Depression, World War II and the removal of British troops after independence, have contributed to ensure the decline in popularity of cricket in the lion city. World War One saw many of Singapore's young cricketers take up arms for Britain and leave Singapore, many never to return. Those that didn't leave to fight still found themselves under fire when in 1915, half way through a game on the Padang a European man ran onto the field to tell the players that a mob of mutineering Indian soldiers were killing every European they could lay their hands on. The game was promptly abandoned as players dispersed to various hiding spots. This was the infamous 1915 "Mutiny of the Indian-Muslim 5th Light Infantry", where Indian troops stationed in Singapore mutineered after hearing rumours they were going to be sent off to the front to be cannon fodder.

Following the war, there was a brief upsurge in the popularity of cricket thanks to the 1927 tour of Singapore and Malaya by an Australian team which included a number of then current test players. The tour brought life in Singapore to a halt to the extent that the Straits Times suggested that a two day public holiday be declared for the match. This was to be the last time that cricket would hold such an interest for the people of Singapore. The Depression forced many young expatriates to leave Singapore and return to their home lands and WWII ensured that the only cricket played in Singapore was between Indians and Eurasians and organised by Japanese officers hoping to gain their favour. Following the war, cricket was dealt further blows by leading nationalists who denounced cricket as a tool of British imperialism and the removal of British troops following independence. In the 1960's and 70's, the Singapore Government focussed on the economy, to the detriment of sport and cricket in particular. Even the small size of Singapore detrimentally affected cricket as any space could have been used as ovals had housing estates or offices built on them instead.

Over the past decade however, there has been a slow regrowth in the popularity of cricket in Singapore, thanks in large part to the coverage it has gained on Pay TV. Thanks to this increased coverage, Singapore schools are beginning to adopt cricket as one of their sports and finally cricket begins to regain some of the phenomonal popularity it enjoyed around the turn of this century.

Source :: Zane Whitehorn

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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