The Korean Cricket Association has made an outstanding breakthrough in the development of the game in South Korea with the introduction of an indigenous team into its domestic competition, the Telstra Cup.
'Beyond The Test World' asked the KCA's President, John Bourke, to reveal how it enticed native Koreans to our game:
"Initiated by discussions in the off-season between the Korean Cricket Association and Mr Kim, Hak Su (a prominent Korean Entrepreneur), the idea was born to form a Korean seniors team in the local competition.
Mr Kim saw the potential in Koreans from their natural athletic prowess and their obsession with baseball. Having met and worked with many ex-baseballer's, Mr Kim struck upon the idea of turning their eye/hand coordination skills to cricket.
Many had been playing semi-professional baseball and had now lost interest in the game or other priorities had taken them away from it. It was these type of Koreans that were hand-picked (or should we say kidnapped?!). With the advent of satellite TV in Korea in the early 1990's, cricket was shown, and still is, in spits and spats, so there was let's say, a "working knowledge" that the game existed.
Further awareness for the great game of cricket was raised when Mr Kim, Hak-Su officially commissioned a 21' by 12' foot oil painting of a cricket match held in the early nineteenth century.
This now hangs in the Prestigious 'Grand Havana' Restaurant & Cigar Bar in southern Seoul to the bemusement of all Korean patrons (particularly when there are actually 16 players fielding, excluding the umpires)!
Focussing primarily on work colleagues and 'mates', a core of six Koreans were recruited (sometimes dragged, threatened with their jobs and free beer!) down to the Seobingo-Dong Cricket Ground (Elementary School to the uninitiated) for some Spring Training and to be shown the basics by our Korean speaking members of the KCA.
Firstly, the basics were 'a straight bat' versus a cross bat!, a 'straight arm bowl' versus a pitch! and getting used to not running every time you hit the ball!
Their strength in the field was quickly realized as balls no higher than the wicket-keepers chest came shooting over the stumps from the boundary! These boys could throw! Not only that, Mr Lee (a former shortstop) took to wicket-keeping like a fish to water.
After a couple of weeks these guys were actually beginning to pick the game up. Their forward defensive shots were now holding out the best of the KCA Bowlers and their fielding was also clearly the best in the competition (not that they have much to compete against).
There is now full commitment by the KCA to continue to train and develop these new recruits. A second pitch is now installed at the end of the Seobingo_Dong Cricket Ground every Sunday for the exclusive use of training the Korean Nationals. We now expect to be fielding a full Korean 12 man side by the Fall 2001 season.
While they have lost their first three games in the Telstra Cricket Cup they have given the competition more then they bargained for. The learning curve is steep and they are fast climbers.
Their first win will come this season.
We are encouraging them to bring along their friends to view the game on the weekend - this has also resulted in more recruits. Additionally the KCA is also tapping into the alumni's of all English, Australian & New Zealand Schools and Universities looking for Koreans that completed their education in Cricket playing nations. Already we have found several 'keen' cricketing buffs, we now just have to get them down to the ground!
So the journey has now started. We hope to field a Korean side at the Shanghai sixes this year and bigger plans are underway so stayed turned!!"
In other news, 230 people attended a dinner at the Seoul Grand Hyatt where former Australian captain, Allan Border, was the guest speaker.
The KCA English language web site, www.cricketkorea.com, will soon go on-line with a link to the Korean language site, clicket.inticity.com
Meanwhile, in the Telstra Cup matches played at the Seo-Bingo-Dong Elementary School in Seoul on Sunday 23 April, 2000, Sri Lankan Lions 110 fended off the Korean Crusaders 101 while Indian Tigers 138 defeated the Pakistani Eagles 108.
Sri Lankan Lions 110 Runs (Jayantha 21, Asanka 15; Shah 2-14) defeated Korean Crusaders 101 (Humayn 61, Bourke 12 n.o; Nimal 5 for 17) by nine runs.
Indian Tigers 138 (Shami 35, Ketan 32 n.o.; Rashid 4-25) defeated Pakistanian Eagles 108 (James 48, Farhan 22; Kishor 2-17) by 30 runs
TEAMS PLAYED WINS POINTS RUN RATE Indian Tigers 4 3 12 6.76 Sri-Lankian Lions 3 3 12 6.38 Pakistanian Eagles 3 2 8 9.02 Korean Crusaders 3 0 0 5.79 Commonwealth Cavaliers 3 0 0 5.46