Cricket in Kuwait is synonymous with Asad Baig, Director-General of Kuwait Cricket. His devotion to cricket has compelled him to play an active role in successfully integrating cricket into Kuwaiti society. He spearheads the formation of cricket teams, manages tournaments and encourages games abroad. Cricket in Kuwait has flourished under his administration, and many memorable experiences in cricket history have been made thanks to his efforts. In an exclusive interview with The Times, he reveals interesting details about his work.
When did your interest in cricket first start?
I started playing in school at the age of 13 in Karachi and on most of the teams I was the captain. It is a source of pride that I have led school, college, clubs and national teams to victory for nearly 30 years. My love for cricket came from my family, it is in my blood. My grandfather played the game, my father did, I did and now my children do. I returned after the invasion, and had an accident so I gave up playing cricket on doctor’s orders. It was then that I thought of making cricket in Kuwait more organized, and worked toward that goal.
What has been the public response to the efforts of Kuwait Cricket?
It is not that easy, but the public response is good. As our Kuwaiti team is going to the Asian games, a group of Kuwaiti citizens, we hope the Government can play a bigger role. Kuwaiti Cricket is the only recognized cricketing controlling body, locally and internationally. We became ICC Affiliates in 1996, and were upgraded to Associates in 2005. It’s a big achievement for us that we are Associates by ICC and a full member of the Asian Cricket Council.
What have you observed about the progression of cricket in Kuwait?
Cricket is now a shared passion for many people and is played by almost a hundred teams. When you see the various cricket grounds or in the desert, people are playing cricket. Cricket is the most popular game among expatriates and is now catching up with Kuwaitis. On our teams, we have girls and boys from different nationalities, including Kuwaiti nationals.
We have played several international tournaments overseas and hosted 12 International tournaments in Kuwait, including a world cup qualifier. We have another world cup qualifier for under 19 which is scheduled to be held in Kuwait in November. I have played a lead role in forming the cricket association called the Kuwait Cricket Committee. We centralised umpiring and a registration system in accordance with ICC specifications and applied to the ICC.
Has cricket always been popular in Kuwait?
Cricket was popular but only played in Ahmadi because there were two cricket fields. However, there was no grass or turf, only concrete and they had to make do.
I am really proud that under my supervision Kuwait is able to have four International cricket grounds outfitted with turf and grass. It is a big achievement. At one time Kuwait was the only country to have four international grounds, although UAE was more experienced and had better infrastructure.
How big of a role does Kuwait Cricket have in Kuwait?
All teams have to register with Kuwait Cricket as it is the only legal authorized body in Kuwait. So anybody who plays legal and authorized cricket has to register with us for eligibility and has to play certain games to participate in any International events. Corporate houses have their own teams and they offer financial and moral support. There are also banks and shipping companies sponsoring their own teams.
What have been some of the highlights of the Six Nations Cricket tournament?
The biggest achievement is that we are hosting the Six Nations Cricket tournament, and most of the teams from South Asian countries have been selected by their embassies. The plus point is that for the first time in history, the Kuwaiti team is playing with all citizens. We are making history. The matches are all friendly though they are competitive. All the teams participate in an amicable atmosphere because of their love for this sport.
Does the Six Nations cricket tournament make Kuwait unique amongst the Arab countries?
Yes, because Kuwait is the only country which is hosting this kind of event. We have representatives from many countries and they are playing together so it is good. In the 2007 ACC Twenty20, ICC President Ray Mali visited Kuwait for the final and at the ICC AGM, I remember him praising the event. It is worth mentioning that he started his speech, praising the Kuwait event and spoke for 10 minutes in ICC AGM.
Do you think Kuwait is on the radar of bigger cricketing nations?
Yes, we have received admiration from the Asian Cricket Council and the International Cricket Council because we have the best administrative structure and the best potential in Kuwait. We have professional and certified coaches, administrators, umpires, curators, scorers and others. All handle their duties well.
What more can Kuwait Cricket do to help in the development of cricket in Kuwait?
The opinion from the majority is that there is a shortage of grass ground, as we have only four grounds. The problem is the allocation of the plot.
What challenges does Kuwait cricket usually face?
The weather is the biggest hurdle as in winter it is too cold and summer it is too hot, but cricket players participate regardless because they love the game. They don’t care about the weather. The second biggest challenge is that it is difficult to ensure continuous training for the players when they start early. There are issues related to jobs, visa and timings. Players can’t attend training sessions when they work two shifts or are forced to go abroad for college, but we manage and try to perform our best. Maintaining a proper fitness level is also an issue.
What has been your experience like in the cricket fraternity?
I love interacting with people in my job; everyone is fantastic and delivers within their capacity, whatever maximum they can. The cricket culture is very strong, and people are committed and give their best. We are on the right track. Thanks to His Excellency Sheikh Dari Fahad Al-Sabah, President of Kuwait Cricket for his dedication and Honorable Secretary/Treasurer, Haider Farman, who is enthusiastic and committed. Also, thanks to Kuwait Olympic Committee for their wholehearted support. With the help of such good people, we are able to achieve the maximum possible.
- Christina Pinto