Cricket fever to erupt in Thailand
[CRICKET] Hundreds of sportsmen plus their families are in Thailand this month to take part in a series of tournaments around the country, but they will be playing a game that most local people don't understand - cricket.
Arguably the biggest amateur cricket tournament in the world starts today in Thailand's northern capital of Chiang Mai, and that tournament is followed by similar competitions in Hua Hin and Phuket.
The Chiang Mai International Cricket Sixes, now in its 19th year, will see as many as 31 teams from around the world taking the field from today.
Since it started 19 years ago many famous cricketers have played at the historic Chiengmai Gymkhana Club, which this year will be celebrating its 108th year in existence. Back in 1898, cricket was first played in Thailand within the beautiful, pastoral surrounds of this venerable institution, which was originally started by British teak traders.
Today, while the cricket ground has fully recovered from the effects of last year's floods, the club's key source of income , the splendid nine-hole golf course, continues to be affected with fewer golfers coming to play.
Heavy flooding nearly spoiled the annual cricket party in Chiang Mai. Repeated flooding of the Gymkhana club grounds from August to October left tons of mud and silt, obliterating the golf course and cricket ground. The prospects for the tournament this year looked bleak.
However, a gallant recovery effort led by local cricketing volunteers removed the offending silt and they completely re-turfed the cricket ground. More than 10,000 square metres of new turf were laid.
This year promises to offer the usual fun blend of fast-paced, exciting six-a-side cricket and friendly socialising in the relaxing atmosphere of what has become perhaps the world's most popular amateur cricket festival.
Shaded spectator seating is provided, there's a Boundary Bar open all day serving a full range of alcoholic drinks and other beverages, and this year there will be three food outlets serving Thai and western dishes. To help follow the fast-paced games on the cricket field there is a broadcast commentary for the matches. This commentary is also carried live around the world via the event's own website at www.chiangmaisixes.com.
In addition to seven days of non-stop sixes' cricket - there are 10 to 14 matches every day - there is a parallel junior tournament run on an adjacent field for teams of Thai schoolchildren.
The 7th Chiang Mai Sixes Sawasdee Cricket Cup is part of the Chiang Mai-based programme to develop cricket as a sport for Thais, which was honoured recently by a visit from caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Admission to the Gymkhana Club grounds and the cricket is free, but if visitors buy a drink or a meal at the ground they will not only help the event's organisers and the cause of cricket in Thailand, but also contribute to the recovery of the historic old sporting club.
The Chiang Mai Sixes starts every day from about 8:30am and runs until sundown from today, April 2, to Saturday, April 8.
Officials estimate the Chiang Mai International Cricket Sixes tournament brings in up to Bt20 million to businesses in the northern capital, with slightly less being spent in Hua Hin and Phuket. In fact, the cricket tournament in Chiang Mai brings almost as much money into the local economy as the annual Songkran Festival.
After Chiang Mai many teams pack their gear and head to either Hua Hin or Phuket for the next round of tournaments.
The Hua Hin tournament is rumoured to be in its final year, but the competition in Phuket, now in its third year, is going from strength to strength.
A record number of teams are expected to compete at this year's Phuket International Cricket Sixes, which will be held at the Karon Stadium from April 12-16.
Former England players Adam Hollioake and Alan Mullally will also be in action in Phuket.
"We're delighted that in only the third year of the tournament we're expecting 28 teams to compete at this year's Phuket Sixes," said tournament director Brad Tarr. "The response has been tremendous."
Twenty-four teams will be flying into Phuket for the tournament from the UK, Australia, Singapore, India, Pakistan, Taiwan, Macau, China, Hong Kong and Malaysia to compete in this popular international cricket event along with four local sides.
"Cricket is one of the highest-profile sports in the world and the Phuket International Cricket Sixes really showcases the island to millions of cricket lovers across the globe as a wonderful destination,"
said Michael Maher, chair-
man of the Asian Cricket Sixes Tour.
"The Phuket Sixes is growing ever more popular and we are looking forward to welcoming a record number of visitors to Phuket this year," said event director Poonpun "Nui" Jangrugsa of The Green Man Pub in Phuket.
The 2005 Phuket Sixes attracted 18 teams and was one of the first international sporting events to take place in Phuket following the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.
Entry to the stadium is free and spectators are welcome to this fun in the sun family sports tournament with play starting from 2pm to 6pm on April 12 and from 10am to 10pm from April 13-16.