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Saturday, June 30, 2001

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Some positive gains from the tour


INTEREST IN cricket is growing in Malaysia. It is now probably ranked fourth in order of popularity after badminton, hockey and soccer and the tiny country has even managed to string together a competent national side which is now participating in the ICC World Cup qualifying tournament at Toronto. The Malaysian National XI made a prepartory tour prior to the ICC tournament and played four matches at the Rajendra Sinhji Stadium in the first week of June.

Notwithstanding the results of the matches ( Malaysia XI was beaten in all four matches, twice by the National Cricket Academy and once by MAC Sports and Spice Simple Team each), there have been some positive gains for the touring party. Some sparkling batting performances and some attacking bowling performances studded the team's showing against the strong NCA side. Coach Lindsay Walker was relatively happy with some of the players and felt that the tour to Bangalore would help his national team mould well as a unit in the crucial ICC trophy matches. `` The boys have learned to play under conditions different from home and have also learned to cope with losing,'' Walker said. `` The opposition in Toronto will not be so tough and the boys would hopefully put up a better show,'' Walker added.

The manager of the side Vijaylingam spoke excitedly about the growth of cricket in Malaysia. The Commonwealth tournament had helped boost the popularity of the game and with ICC identifying countries to promote the game, Malaysia has seen an upsurge for cricket. `` My current national side has a good mix of Tamils, Muslims and Malaysians. We have players who have excelled in athletics including a champion javelin thrower and their interest in cricket is growing. I feel that with a couple of years of experience in the game Malaysia will be able to field a decent side. Taking the cue from Bangladesh, Malaysia should be able to produce some good cricketers. We also have some very good grounds and the enthusiasm for the game is definitely growing,'' Vijaylingam said. `` I am happy with the performance of Shankar, Rohan Selvaratnam, Suresh Navratanam and Yazid Imran,'' Vijaylingam added. Incidentally Mr. Vijaylingam is an avid reader of The Sportstar and likes Sidhu's and Gavaskar's columns. He is also a qualified coach having passed his exams in Australia.

After four days of fairly absorbing cricket played in wonderful weather and superb conditions, the Malaysian side spent a day sightseeing and being entertained. At the send off party hosted by Spice Telecom, the Malaysian boys did some lively dancing to both Indian and Western music. Dancing and disco hopping is very popular in Malaysia and Hindi music is popular in that country. The Malaysian players also idolise the Indian cricketers and Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid and Harbhajan Singh are hot favourites. The Malaysians are a very fit side and all of them looked shipshape during the tour. With some serious practice and some valuable experience Malaysian cricket could soon make an impact in Asia.

D. RAVI SHANKAR

Bangalore

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