DESPITE the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, Malaysian cricket is in a good place at the moment and plans are afoot to consolidate and broaden the development of the sport.
This is the view of Cricket Malaysia president Mohammed Iqbal Ali Kassim Ali, who took over the leadership of the national association in April and hopes to build on Malaysia’s recent growth.
Speaking to StarMetro Sport, Iqbal said: “Like any other sport, the pandemic has caused a setback.
“But in spite of the absence of tournaments, both national and international, Cricket Malaysia has been moving forward.
“We quickly adapted to the situation and embarked on conducting online programmes.
“We conduct online fitness programmes, umpire and referee workshops on a weekly basis as well as organise webinars with present and former international cricketers and umpires, as well as local sports talents.
“Initially, getting the players on board was a little tough, for a number of reasons.
“But this has changed as Cricket Malaysia is also very much in tune with not just the physical well-being of our players, but also their mental and emotional well-being.”
Iqbal said they conducted sessions on a weekly basis with the players to engage with appointed psychologists, who cater to their emotional and mental well-being during these trying times.
He said the association was also an honoured recipient of the Sime Darby Foundation sponsorship programme that fostered the development of cricket at grassroots level, namely the Cricket Adiwira Programme (a simplified version of cricket).
“This has indeed proven a massive boost for us.
“We’re now able to employ 10 development officers, some of whom are our current national players, and we have created 10 centres of excellence throughout the country to promote the Cricket Adiwira Programme, with a clear pathway for the selected players.
“With this, Cricket Malaysia has set a road map that enables all children, regardless of their socio-economic background, to play cricket under the Cricket Adiwira Programme and nurture a generation who believe and uphold unity in diversity, whilst acquiring a sense of pride as bona fide Malaysian sportspersons.
“There is also the Girl’s Development and High-Performance Pathway Programme, through which Malaysian cricket targets the women’s under-19 team and the senior women’s team to showcase their talent in the international arena,” said Iqbal.
“This pathway will improve the women’s world ranking and lead the team to qualify for the ICC T20 Cricket World Cup.
“In addition, the support will give the team a chance to qualify for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, UK.”
The association has educational partners who offer scholarships to selected students from secondary school to university level.
There are now 10 girls enrolled at Bukit Jalil Sports School, which is a first for cricket in Malaysia.
“Also, our long-term education partner, Asia Pacific University, has been offering students full scholarships up to undergraduate programmes and it continues to take in new batches of cricketers each year,” said Iqbal.
“There are other universities who have agreed to come on board with similar offers.
“Earlier this year, we awarded playing contracts to our women players for the first time.”
The pandemic might have halted physical training sessions, but up to June 2021, Cricket Malaysia still had 202 schools in the Cricket Adiwira Programme with a total of 6,439 students. Of that number, 2,014 are girls.
“There are now 622 teachers, making up an average of three teachers per school,” Iqbal noted. “And we are confident of these numbers growing.”
The Cricket Malaysia president said it had 40 new candidates under the Penjana Kerjaya 2.0 Hiring Incentive scheme — made up of boys and girls representing all the states in Malaysia.
“We have also signed several other commercial partnerships that essentially will spur the growth of cricket in Malaysia.
“One such partnership is with FanCode, India’s premier digital sports destination, where exclusive rights are granted for them to live-stream Malaysian cricket to over 15 million subscribers.
“We have signed on partnerships for cricket attire and one for (synthetic) equipment, particularly for schools.
“Soon to be launched is our fan engagement app. We are working on this with our fan engagement partner Fanisko.
“Once the augmented reality app is operational, we expect to see a vast change in the way fans engage with us.
“The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns may have altered the way we work and how we do things, but through the dedication of all at Cricket Malaysia, it is an upward trajectory,” added Iqbal.