Vietnam: This time its Hanoi CC rather than VC on the march
Back in the 1960s the so-called 'Domino Theory' held that if Hanoi got its way, all of South East Asia would become 'red'.
Twenty-five years on after the march into the then Saigon, instead of repelling Western forces, Hanoi now wants 'foreign intervention' as it again seeks to export its preferred way of life.
The export this time is cricket and not ideology and the foot soldiers are the expatriates who make up the membership of the Hanoi Cricket Club.
While the club will next month stage its most important internal event, the annual Coca Cola Trophy, between teams representing 'Australia', 'India' and 'the Rest of the World', it is the sports fields of Indochina which the club hopes to cultivate.
"We would certainly like to be associated in that manner," Hanoi CC official, R.Ravikumar said this week.
The club itself, which was formed in 1993, enjoys a weekly diet of cricket from September to December, the highlight of which is the three-team 30-over-per-side Trophy competition in which each team plays the other two twice, with the top two teams meeting in a final. The tournament continues throughout November and December.
Cricket is also played fortnightly by the club's 40 strong membership from March to May until the heat and humidity makes play unbearable. Such is the climate that cricket is played during the Vietnamese winter.
The Rest of the World team is usually drawn from New Zealanders, Sri Lankans, Britons and Pakistanis in the capital.
A similarity Vietnamese cricket 'enjoys' with the rest of the non-Test world, are the pitch conditions on which matches are played.
"Until now, the matches are played on straw matting more usually found in living rooms. Vietnam being a country where cricket is an alien sport, we have to play on pitches that are trampled on by soccer players," Mr. Ravikumar said.
The club would like to receive visiting team and are expecting an expatriate side from China in January.
The Hanoi CC sees assistance from the International Cricket Council as crucial to it fulfilling its desire to expand into both the mainstream Vietnamese sporting market and other Indochinese centres.
Mr. Ravikumar said the then ICC East Asia-Pacific Development Officer, Andrew Eade had planned to visit just as he was promoted to the London-based ICC Global Development Manager's role. Although unavoidable, this had slowed plans to coordinate development in Indochina and Thailand, with a tournament a then long term possibility. "We need to reactivate correspondence."
Hanoi officials, with their meagre resources, also see outside support as pivotal to enticing Vietnamese to the game.
"We keep attempting to lure Vietnamese people working with the expats here and also people working in Indian/Australian/British Embassies," Mr. Ravikumar said. "It is very hard to make a crack but our untiring efforts are still on.
"We have put up advertisements in the local English Daily. During the tournaments, the matches are well covered in the Daily. Besides these, since the members are expats, many circulations in the Embassies, restaurants and other prominent places of public visit are made."
Mr. Ravikumar said there were three elements crucial to attracting Vietnamese:
- Arrange coaching camps at the school level & supply them free kits
- Cover the tournament in the local print and electronic media
- Get more Vietnamese to come and watch the matches.
"All this can done only with some assistance from ICC."
Mr. Ravikumar is hopeful cricket can establish a presence in Ho Chi Minh City, generally still considered by far the more westernised of the two centres long after the capitalist retreat of 1975.
For now though, cricket enjoys a strong niche following amongst the Commonwealth expatriates of Hanoi, who meet in Mr. Ravikumar's Indian restaurant, somewhat of a cricketing oasis.
"This is the only place in Vietnam, where cricket matches from all over the world are shown. We have Star Sports India, ESPN India and Doordarshan Indian channels. Between these three, one of them always cover the cricket matches that are played in any part of the world and we show them to the interested visitors on a big screen live," Mr. Ravikumar enthused. "We also organised showing World Cup matches live."
Such telecasts have yielded the club recruits.
"Generally those people who come to the restaurant, if they evince interest in playing cricket we take them. It is thus, the overseas Vietnamese or sometimes even tourists come to know about the club activity and participate in the game."
Indeed 'quiz and curry' nights attract 150 to 200 enthusiasts. "They participate in the quiz and discuss matters of cricket."© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.