The national cricket team bagged the Champions’ trophy of Asian Cricket Council (ACC) T20 Men’s Eastern Region 2018 to win the first team sports title in Thailand recently.
Despite losing to the finalist, Thailand, for two consecutive times in the warm-up match and in the league round by 44 runs, the team defeated Thailand by three runs in the final.
The tournament was the ACC’s first of the year.
“There was a moment in the match where we could have lost the final to Thailand. But the players fought hard. Bowling and fielding were excellent. It’s a proud moment for the cricket of Bhutan,” Coach Damber Gurung said.
He added that the team would henceforth never play as an emerging team. “We are champions. This was what we wanted to achieve. The final was excellent.”
The team prepared for the championship for more than a month. The selection of players was done at the district tournaments that involved teams from five dzongkhags. The final 14-member squad was selected in Thimphu.
Captain Jigme Singye said that the win made everyone emotional. “It was the happiest moment.”
Jigme Singye also won the player of the tournament award and said that the award was unexpected. “It’s a team sport and you give everything for the team to win. The award was special, but it couldn’t beat the champions’ trophy feeling.”
Facing strong team on their home ground and playing on a natural turf in the competition, Damber Gurung said that the situation was difficult and different. “ But we had our own advantage of having good bowlers and fielding.”
The Bhutanese squad was made up of “seasonal players”. BCCB does not have adequate infrastructure to conduct training. The board currently uses the Pelkhil Oval to train. This arrangement with Pelkhil is only until the end of 2018.
To expand the game to other parts of the country, BCCB in collaboration with school organised inter-school tournaments and grassroots activities. Today, BCCB has close to 15,000 juniors players, 1000 women cricketers and as many men cricketers in the country.
BCCB expects the cricket ground in Gelephu to help them develop a good set of players to keep the performance get better. “It would make big difference in standardising the level of play.”
Best bowler of the tournament, Suprit Pradhan, said that he was sure that the turf wickets of Thailand would favour spins.
“Winning the best bowler of the tournament was unexpected,” he said. “The journey has just begun and, hopefully, the government will help us build good cricket infrastructure in the country so that we could win many more International tournaments in future.”
Damber Gurung said that winning the championship was possible because of passion and dedication of the players.
He added that the board is not sure about whether the players of the winning team would play in the future. “Our focus is also on junior players. To bring them up and to win in the future, we need to have a ground of own.”
He said that it would be difficult to retain senior players.