By Shruti Kothari
Khuram Gilani, General Manager of the Cricket Association of Thailand, shows us how this game combines his principles, passion and patriotism.
Empowering youths from the furthest reaches of our country, the Cricket Association of Thailand has been recruiting talent to form highly successful national women’s and men’s cricket teams of various age levels. Khuram Gilani has been instrumental in this concept of sustainable development of both the nation and the people through sport. Having worked over the last 13 years as Team Coach, Liason Officer, Logistics Manager, HR Manager, Financial Officer, Tournament Director and finally, General Manager, he tells us about his dedication to the cause.
You’ve moved around a lot! Tell us what growing up was like?
Though I was born in Bangkok, I lived in Karachi, Bombay, and Manila as a kid. I then received my Bachelor’s in Media Communications at the Western Sydney University in Australia, completed a second Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing at Bangkok University International College, and a Master’s in Human Resource Management at Middlesex University in the UK.
I initially felt that I didn’t have a place to call home, or childhood friends, or a sense of belonging. However, I’ve realised that I’m now able to adapt easily to new environments, and communicate with people from different cultures and backgrounds. I speak Hindi, Urdu, Tagalog, English and Thai, which helps, too.
“I was eager to join this team, which furthered personal and national development through sport.”
What sparked your interest in cricket?
I mostly used to play basketball and wakeboard after school. However, when I was 18, my older brother, a cricket enthusiast, needed an extra player for a game and recruited me. I spent four hours under the beating Australian sun and touched the ball thrice. I was not thrilled.
However, upon returning to Bangkok, I made friends with former Thai National Team players and coaches. They challenged me to play for 30 minutes, and I couldn’t last 10. This inspired me to do better, and in the process, I met the godfather of Thai Cricket, Mohideen Kader (our CEO), who gave me the opportunity of a lifetime!
How did Mohideen help turn your passion into a career?
He was helping talented young people from rural, remote areas with very little guidance and opportunity. The cricket training was supplemented with food, shelter, and education, which in turn opened up a whole world of possibility for them. I was eager to join this team, which furthered personal and national development through sport.
I started with coaching and teaching English, and then the following nine years, begun travelling to destinations like China, Singapore, Malaysia and Ireland as the Team Manager of the women’s and men’s national U16 and U19 teams. I obtained certification in Australian Cricket Level I Coaching, ICC Media and Marketing, and ICC Leadership (Trailblazer). In 2016, I was offered the position of General Manager, and I couldn’t have been more excited!
Where do you discover your players?
A lot of our players come from underprivileged backgrounds; the association travels to remote areas in the furthest corners of Thailand to seek talent. We have three main academies, located in Chiang Mai, Chanthaburi and Bangkok, and this is where we provide food, accommodation, education, and an opportunity to develop further. We also educate the PE teachers at local schools and universities about cricket, and run coaching, umpiring and scoring courses for them. This helps cultivate skill and enthusiasm. Many of our players live together, and have become a tight-knit family, with older and younger members supporting and guiding each other through all aspects of their lives.
What does it feel like to be at a match?
It’s incredible. When I go as the National Team Manager, wearing the Thailand shirt and being part of the team, it’s unreal. Over the years, especially with the number of overseas competitions we’ve been to, we have become a family. We eat together, go touring and exploring together, and of course, spend a lot of time on the grounds during matches and practices together. I always act calm and try to keep everything together, but I actually get very nervous.
At the end of each match, no matter if we win or lose, as a sign of respect, our players always wai the opposing team, cricket officials, ground staff and so on. No other team does this. It makes me proud to be Thai and represent my country, in not just our prowess, but our culture. It’s obviously also thrilling that we’ve started winning a fair amount.
How do you see the future of the team? Any specific plans or ambitions?
The future is looking very bright for cricketers in Thailand. The wheels have started turning, and we have high hopes from both the men’s and women’s teams. I know exactly how much work and dedication they have to put in and I respect their commitment, as this is the reason we have been able to move up in the rankings. Our women’s team will be going to Scotland in August to compete with top teams for a spot in the World Cup.Our plan is simple: win all the matches and get into the World Cup. We are more ready now than ever.
“Our plan is simple: win all the matches and get in to the World Cup. We are more ready now than ever.”
As a leader, how do you cultivate team spirit?
We all have our set roles and responsibilities, but we always work as a unit. Everyone in our core team has a voice and is involved in decision-making, from looking after the grounds to managing tournaments, budgets and teams.
We are now recognised across 26 provinces and cricket is rapidly growing in Thailand. Our recent achievements in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games, where we won the Women’s Gold and Men’s Bronze Medals, and our current women’s team ranking 12th out of 53 countries, prove that our method works. Our aim is to develop more cricket academies, and provide scholarships and a pathway for deserving players
What is your biggest challenge at work?
While cricket has rapidly been gaining momentum in Thailand, and our teams are earning recognition, it is still a fairly new sport here. Therefore our fan base is not yet large, resulting in difficulty procuring adequate funding, which is vital to our expansion plans. We have laid pathways for girls and boys to pursue cricket. Academies have been set up, grounds and facilities are in place, but we need to grow and meet demands in other regions.
STATS OF SUCCESS!
2017: Winners – ICC Women’s World T20, Qualifier Asia, Thailand
2017: Women’s Gold Medalist, and Men’s Bronze Medalist – SEA Games 2017,
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
2018: SHIELD Champions – ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier 2018, Netherlands
2018: Winners – the ACC Women’s Asia Cup T20, Malaysia
2019: Winners – Thailand Women’s T20 Smash 2019 Tournament, Thailand
2019: Winners – ICC Women’s Qualifiers Asia 2019, Thailand
Nopphon (Pear) Senamontree: Captain of the Men’s National Team. Cricket player since age 14, from Khon Kaen, he is a star player as well as a vital part of the cricket development academy.
Sornnarin Tippoch: Captain of the Women’s National Team. Originally a softball player, discovered in 2007. Place 17 in the ICC Women’s T20 Bowling rankings, place 42 in the ICC Women’s All-Rounder rankings. A born leader.