Hyderabad: ‘Muscles’ as he was fondly remembered during his playing career, SL Venkatapathy Raju is a busy man scouting and honing talent in some of the non-Test countries in Asia like Thailand, Malaysia, Nepal or Male. “It is a nice and challenging job. It is always good to see cricket being played in countries like Thailand, Nepal, Male, Malaysia, Oman. Cricket is growing,’’ said the former Hyderabad skipper. The 46-year-old is presently helping Nepal cricket in their developmental programme.
Ever since he quit first class cricket in 2004, the left-arm spinner, who played in 28 Tests and 53 one-day internationals between 1990 and 2001, took to coaching before taking the assignment as Asian development officer a few years ago. “The erstwhile Asian Cricket Council played a big role in developing the game in non-Test countries in the region. Former players like Roger Binny, Iqbal Sikander, Aminul Islam and Ratnayake played key roles in taking the game forward. That helped the growth of the game,’’ said Raju, while talking to N Jagananth Das.
On Asian Cricket Council
Asian Cricket Council had a very good system of funding and that helped the growth of the game in some countries. Depending on the ranking, the fund was distributed and they had a lot of tournaments. There was no cricket culture in these countries. We need to have a lot of patience. They made a good road map and that really helped cricket. A lot of cricket was played in smaller places and now the game has developed into a big thing.
On Nepal and their game
Former Sri Lanka pace bowler Rumesh Ratnayake was in charge of the team and he did a good job. There is a lot of interest in the game in Nepal. For instance, there is a full-house crowd of 15,000 to 20,000 whenever there is any match involving Nepal, whether it is under-19, women or senior team. Unfortunately, they do not have a proper association. But Asian cricket is supporting them in a big way. Nepal teams qualify regularly. The under-19 team qualified for the Asia Cup
On talented players in Nepal
They have some good players and they rely on spinners. There is leg spinner called Sandeep. He is just 17 years and already playing for the senior team. He is picking a lot of wickets and under-19 World Cup qualifiers, Nepal came second behind Afghanistan. This boy got 24 wickets. He has good variation and the pace he bowls is brilliant. They have got some capable batsmen. They watch a lot of cricket. They follow the Indian cricket. Of course, they follow and admire cricketers like Virat Kohli and Dhoni.
On cricket in Thailand
There is tremendous growth of the game in Thailand and the credit goes to Kader, who has been in that country for the last 40 years. He has taken the Thai cricket to a different level, particularly the women’s team. Most of the team members belong to the small districts of Thailand. Most of them were basically softball players and they were taught cricket. They have already played two World Cup qualifiers. They won a Sea Games gold medal in cricket. They have become big stars in Thailand. Cricket has become very popular in schools and colleges. We tried to have cricket rules in Thai languages. They have done it brilliantly and all the laws are in their language. This has helped the game to grow in a big way. The Thailand cricket gets good funding, particularly after they won the gold in the recent Sea Games. Kader’ son Shan is the development manager of Thai cricket and spots talent. Thailand cricketers watch IPL matches. They learn the cricket through these matches.