Hill tribe children show the true spirit of cricket

10 April 2015
Hill tribe children show the true spirit of cricket

The emergence of a generation of talented young hill tribe players has been one of the most encouraging developments in Thailand cricket over the last few years and this has recently been recognized by the Asian Cricket Council who have announced that the Hill Tribe Cricketers of Northern Thailand were the winners of their Spirit of Cricket Award.

The ICC have now held their annual awards with entries from around the cricketing world and the latest news is that the Hill Tribe Cricketers supported by the San Miguel Chiang Mai International Cricket Sixes for so long have won the worldwide award as well. This gives international recognition for our Hill Tribe kids and for all the generous help given by players and supporters at the Sixes.

Under-privileged children from hill tribes in Northern Thailand such as Hmong, Karen and Akha who had been sent to Chiang Mai by their families have seen their lives transformed after being given the chance to play cricket. The San Miguel Chiang Mai International Cricket Sixes has played a crucial role in this transformation by supporting the program of schools cricket developed by CMSCA and by funding many of the children’s living costs through the Hill Tribe Fund.

Cricket was taken to the schools in the north of Thailand in the years after 2000 thanks to a team of volunteer coaches and the two outstanding sides to emerge in the junior league, CPP at Doi Saket and Wat Don Chan in Chiang Mai, were largely made up of hill tribe players.

In recent years CPP has become a Centre of Excellence for young cricketers in the North of Thailand where children have been give the chance to continue with their education as well as to practise their cricket every day.

At the same time several of the boys from the Wat Don Chan cricket team were taken out of their hostel and placed in a house in Chiang Mai before later being moved to Lamphun with their living costs and their education funded by the Hill Tribe Fund thanks to money raised by cricket enthusiasts from around the world. Girls (Nok, Aree and Dao) from a local children’s home are now also being looked after and have developed as outstanding young cricketers.

These hill tribe children have been the outstanding young players at the National Junior Championships as Chiang Mai developed as the strongest provincial team and Lamphun emerged as their main rivals. The older boys have had the chance to coach the younger players and have the opportunity to take coaching courses to improve their skills.

The Thailand’s women team has enjoyed some outstanding success over the last few years and some of the younger players, Anna, Min and Amee, come from hill tribe backgrounds and have benefited greatly from their stay at CPP.

Young Nok, player of the tournament in the Sixes Sawasdee Cup only two years ago, has now joined the Thailand training squad and made her debut for the women’s team in the Bangkok Cricket League. She will be staying at the new Bangkok Cricket Academy and has a good chance of being selected for the Thailand squad in the ICC Women’s World T20 Qualifier which will be held in Bangkok in November.

Three boys from Wat Don Chan, Bunchuai, Chanchai and Cher became the mainstays of the Lamphun provincial team and also play for Lanna Juniors in the Chiang Mai Senior League, and have just returned from a trip to Sri Lanka that was also partly funded by the Sixes. The Willows CC from New Zealand paid for the boys’ flights so it is appropriate that they will be playing for a Thailand junior team against The Willows’ under-19 team in Bangkok just before the Sixes

The boys had the chance to watch Sri Lanka play England, took part in a schools match themselves and enjoyed high quality coaching at the Cricket Live Foundation in Moratuwa. They even helped to coach local Sri Lankan children who are looked after by the New Zealand backed charity.

Along with Jun, who is now helping with coaching in Chiang Mai schools, the boys are now playing regularly in the Premier Division of the Bangkok Cricket League, as their talents are being appreciated across Thailand. They have played for Bangkok Spirits and Siam CC and they also helped Lanna Spirits win the Southerners Social Sixes alongside other Sixes regulars.

Hill tribe boys first played for the senior Thailand side in 2012 and a full ethnic junior side played against the MCC in the same year and it will soon be possible to field a senior side made up from players with hill tribe backgrounds. A Northern Thailand team largely made up of hill tribe children won an international women's tournament held at Royals and Nok won a player of the match award, while the Juniors came second in the inaugural Lanna Sixes held at Prem in December.

Hill tribe children have shown a real aptitude for cricket but it is just as significant that their education has also been looked after, with several of the players now at college, and other older boys returning to play in local cricket even after leaving to take up jobs. Kids used to make up the numbers in senior cricket in Chiang Mai but the two junior teams, Lanna Juniors and CPP, quickly became the strongest teams in the league.

The future of cricket in Northern Thailand will be based on this new generation of hill tribe cricketers all of whom have also been given the chance of education and a career path they would never have dreamed of a few years ago.

The teams, players and supporters of the San Miguel Chiang Mai International Cricket Sixes have very much played their part: All the hill tribe children mentioned in this article have played in the Sixes with the SM Thais winning the Bowl and Nok being an important part of the Gymkhana Cavaliers Spoon-winning side.

All the money raised by Jenny and her wonderful team of helpers goes to fund schools cricket in Chiang Mai and to support the Hill Tribe Fund’s wonderful efforts in looking after these young hill tribe cricketers. Thank you again for all your support and the ACC and ICC Spirit of Cricket Awards are well deserved recognition of all that has been achieved.