THE 29th SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur was an unforgettable experience for Malaysia’s cricket team captain Mohammad Anwar Arudin and his team mates.
To see fans thronging Kinrara Oval to watch a sport that is not as popular as football, badminton and hockey, overwhelmed him.
The 33-year-old Perakian who won gold for the 50-overs format and silver for the 20-overs format events said he did not expect many fans to come and watch the team play during the games in Kuala Lumpur.
“I do not know if cricket will be part of future games, but for this year, our team prepared well and we were buoyed by the fans.
“Malaysia’s cricketers are glad to know that support for the sport is getting better and we hope this continues in the future,” Anwar said.
The left-handed opening batsman said it was a surreal experience to see fans taking photos with the players and also asking for autographs.
When asked about the team’s performance, he said the Malaysian team played better and committed fewer mistakes to win the coveted gold.
While Malaysia maintained a disciplined performance throughout the 50-overs format and won all their matches on the way to the gold medal, a solitary defeat against Singapore in 20-overs format saw Malaysia finishing second behind their causeway rivals.
“Singapore and Malaysia are almost on the same level when it comes to cricketing prowess and we have been rivals for many years.
“For the 20-overs match, we only scored 117 runs and it was a bit tough to defend that score. We made it hard for our bowlers to penetrate their batsmen.
“Now we are focused for the Indoor Cricket World Cup in Dubai, later this month,” said Anwar.
Two hundred metre bronze medallist G. Aravin Thevar said the games were challenging but the presence of the home crowd proved to be the tonic for Malaysia’s stupendous success.
“It happened in our home ground, so the support was very high and we were even more motivated and stronger.
“It’s a big achievement for us this year. My future plan is to prepare and qualify for the Asian games, Commonwealth Games, World Championships and Olympics.”
Aravin said Perak is capable of producing top-notch athletes for the country but reminded young athletes that they must train hard and listen to their coach’s advise.
Hockey captain Mohamad Sukri Abdul Mutalib said he was excited to be part of the tournament because it was his first SEA Games and winning the gold was something that he always wanted to achieve.
“I was excited even before the tournament started. It was a good experience playing in front of home fans and what made it even more memorable were the smiles on their faces.
“Right now, we want to train hard for the Asia Cup in October and also for the World Cup, which will be held next year,” said the 31-year-old player.
Sailor Nor Nabila Natasha, 15, said the SEA Games this year was livelier and she had fun in the opening and closing ceremony of the event.
Nor Nabila, who won the gold in the Optimist Class event with Israr Hazim Ismail, Muhammad Syafie Ali and Muhammad Fauzi Kaman Shah, said the team’s performance shows promise, but is hoping for a better infrastructure for sailors in the future.
“It is needed so that we can prepare better for future games. Right now, I am continuing my training for Sukma Perak next year and also look forward to the selections for the Asian Games in Indonesia, next year,” she said.
Malaysia emerged the best sporting nation in South-East Asia, after the country topped the medal tally at the 2017 SEA Games (KL2017) with 145 gold, 92 silver and 86 bronze medals.
With a total count of 323 medals, this was also Malaysia’s best-ever finish in the history of the SEA Games.
Athletes from Perak contributed 21 golds, seven silvers and eight bronzes to the total.