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Thailand now on the map as the home of six-a-side game

Thailand is becoming known around the world as the home of a sport that the average Thai has never seen played, or if they have, has absolutely no understanding of what it’s about.

From South Africa to Australia, Thailand is known as the home of six-a-side cricket, with the annual Chiang Mai International Sixes tournament the most famous. Other six-a-side competitions are being held regularly in Bangkok, Hua Hin and now Phuket.

The Chiang Mai event, now in its 18th year, is arguably the biggest amateur international cricket competition in the world and attracts a wide variety of players, some still representing their countries and some drawn from pub sides.

This year the organisers of the Chiang Mai event have invited Sir Viv Richards, a legend in the sport and named as one of the top five players of all time. Also invited to Chiang Mai is another well known cricket fan, Sir Mick Jagger, who is often pictured sitting in the stands at the famous Lords ground in England when a big match is being played and the Rolling Stones are not touring.

This year’s Chiang Mai tournament will see the most teams entered in the 18-year history of the event, which is played at one of Thailand’s oldest sports clubs, the beautiful 107-year-old Chiengmai Gymkhana Club.

The Phuket Invitational Cricket Sixes was held for the first time last year and was a great success, and this year the organisers are determined to go ahead with the event to help boost tourism on the tsunami-hit island.

Last April in Phuket a complement of 12 international club teams flew in from Australia, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, India, Pakistan and Thailand.

Starring in the tournament were former Test players Trevor Chappell (Australia) and Atul Wassan (India) and first class players Paul Pritchard (Essex, England) and Franklin Hinds (West Indies).

Last year’s event, which was supported by the governor of Phuket, led to the formation of the Phuket Cricket Union (PCU), which is supported by the Asian Cricket Sixes Tour (ACST).

Up to 25 teams from around the world are expected to fly to Phuket to compete in the 2005 Phuket International Cricket Sixes. The format of the competition will be extended by two days to five days to cater for this number of teams.

The organisers of the Chiang Mai sixes have also had to expand their tournament to seven days this year because of the growing number of teams entered.

In Phuket, the people involved in running the tournament are keen to help people on the island recover from the aftermath of the tsunami.

ACST chairman Michael Maher said: “For us all to go to Phuket, spend our money and to enjoy the island is the best way to assist the rejuvenation of Phuket.”

Maher, who is now in Thailand to help organise this year’s Phuket sixes, added: “We have meetings with the governor of Phuket, the mayor of Karon, the newly formed Phuket Cricket Union (PCU), the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and numerous others, to offer our support.

“We intend to make sure that the tournament goes ahead. So we will provide whatever is needed so that it does indeed happen. However, as we currently do not have enough sponsorship support, we will be very interested if sponsors would indeed help us out for this important tournament to those in Phuket.”

One of the most appealing aspects of the six-a-side tournaments in Thailand – regular matches are played with 11 on each team – is that the players don’t have to be experts. Even the occasional unfit players in pub sides get to play against other teams of the same standard.

Cricket Sixes is a short form of the sport of cricket where six players make up each team rather than the traditional 11. In some ways the idea is similar to rugby sevens in that each cricket sixes match is designed to incorporate all the most exciting aspects of the sport: high scores, fast action and exciting match finishes.

Now recognised world-wide, the sixes format is a definite crowd-pleaser with each match lasting about 45 minutes.

And with teams only having to find six players to play in events rather than 11, it makes it so much easier for clubs to participate in tournaments.

So while the general public in Thailand may not understand the game, the people of Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Hua Hin and Phuket benefit through the money spent by the players and their friends, and Thailand’s reputation as one of the most desired holiday/leisure destinations in the world is further enhanced.

Published on February 20, 2005

Alan Parkhouse

The Nation

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