MANILA, Philippines – Host Malaysia has included cricket for the first time in the 29th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) but no Philippine team would be part of that milestone.
Philippine Cricket Association team manager Faisal Khan confirmed to Rappler that the PCA would not be able to represent the country in the SEA Games.
“Cricket is not an Olympic sport and it’s the first time it will be included in the SEA Games. There are a lot of things to do. We are not completely prepared for it,” Khan said in an interview via phone.
Unfamiliar to many in the Philippines, cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams with 11 players each, in a field with a target called a wicket at each end. The goal is to score as many runs as possible and make sure the other team doesn’t reach that score.
According to Khan, cricket existed in the Philippines more than a hundred years ago but at a social level. It gained popularity back in 1914 when the Nomad Sports Club was founded.
“It was just a game for expats which are mostly played by British people but slowly, since more expats were coming to the Philippines, cricket started growing until we formed the Philippine Cricket Association,” said Khan.
Cricket in the Philippines
When the PCA came to life, cricket became not just a hobby but a formal sport. Currently, there are 20 active teams competing in local leagues.
PCA has a men’s and under-19 teams and it plans to form a women’s and under-15 squad this year.
Despite the growing number of players, there's only one cricket field in the entire country.
“We only have one cricket home which is in Emilio Aguinaldo College (Dasmariñas Cavite). Previously, we had a ground in Parañaque (City) called Nomad Sports Club but that place has shut down recently,” Khan shared.
In 2011, the Philippine cricket team bagged second place in its first international tournament in Samoa.
"The Philippines is not a rugby-playing same as it is not a cricket-playing nation but there are a lot of Filipinos who are living abroad like in England, Australia, where cricket is very popular and they are very much excited to represent the Philippines like the Volcanoes," Khan said.
"That’s one way of popularizing the game. We are actually recruiting overseas [players] who have Filipino blood who can represent the country," he added.
'We need more'
Despite missing this year's SEA Games, Khan and the rest of the cricket team don't feel disappointed.
"We need more players. We need more sponsors because we can't fund it ourselves. We need more support from the government," said Khan.
"We need to recruit more Filipino levels who could compete at a certain competitive level. At this moment, we don’t have enough Filipino players who can go and represent the country. If we participate, we want to be in a position to win at least one medal," he said.
The cricketer Khan also said the PCA is trying its best to introduce the sport to the youth and build grassroot programs but they it's not getting enough government support.
"We are trying to include cricket in the grassroots level in public schools which we don’t charge anything – we provide the equipment, coaching staff, from our own funding," Khan said.
"We need the government’s support on this because usually, they say we need permission from the Department of Education so we can introduce the sport easily," he added.
The Philippine team has participated in 3 International Cricket Council-sanctioned tournaments. If all goes according to plans, there will be a Philippine cricket team in the 2019 SEA Games.
"There's a fair chance for the Philippines to bag a gold or silver in that," Khan said. – Rappler.com