Global Cricket

An Interview With PNG Cricket General Manager Andrew Knott

Papua New Guinea is perhaps one of cricket’s most exotic outposts. At the height of the season, thousands of cricketers, in villages and towns play the game in various shapes and forms. Some organized, some less formal.

In many areas cricket is the number one sport. Currently there are more players than facilities.

PNG probably has more hurdles to overcome than most associate nations if it is to become a top ten cricketing nation. Equipment needs to found. Facilities constructed. The issue of getting from one cricketing location to another is not to be underestimated in a country not noted for it’s highways and modern transportation systems. Sometimes the air is the best route between one town and another.

But PNG also has some fantastic advantages such as having a cricketing powerhouse on it’s doorstep.

Cricket Australia’s Centre of Excellence has provided coaching and training to some of PNG’s elite youngsters. Queensland cricket is also a strong supporter of the game. Some of PNG’s national players like Asad Vala are testing themselves in strong Australian club competitions and more are set to follow. A combined East-Asia Pacific side, featuring a large majority of PNG players, compete in The Australian Country Cricket Championships annually and a EAP Development squad containing a number of current PNG Under-19 representative, recently played a three match series against the Malaysian Under-19 squad, winning 2-1.

Perhaps it is not out of the question that PNG will one day participate in Australian domestic limited overs competitions like The KFC 20/20 Big Bash or the 50 over Ford Ranger Cup. Cricket Australia should be encouraged to invite it’s nearest neighbour into the fray in the future.

Surely there are exciting times ahead for PNG cricket.

But how do you roll all this promise and potential into one potent package?

Andrew Knott is the new PNG Cricket General Manager. In this interview he explains how cricket works in PNG and outlines some of the plans that will be put in place over the next few years.

Stinga: Which Provinces in PNG play cricket?

Andrew Knott: There is some form of formalised cricket in the National Capital District (Port Moresby area), Central Province, Morobe, Alotau, Popondetta and Kimbe. There are other forms of cricket being played in places such as the Trobriand Islands which are local adaptations of the game of cricket which was introduced by missionaries.

Stinga: What plans do you have to make cricket popular out of the traditional strongholds, Port Moresby, Central Province and Lae?

Andrew Knott: At the moment we are focussing on the areas which the game has a traditional foothold (as you mention above). Once these areas have become strong and self-sustaining, we will be able to spread out to other areas.

Stinga: Is the highlands region a priority?

Andrew Knott: The highlands are a region in which we would like to enter, obviously because of the large population there. Traditionally, however, this has not been a happy hunting ground for cricket development as rubgy and soccer are very strong in these areas. Most cricket has historically been played along coastal areas.

Stinga: Would you say that AFL and Rugby have been more pro-active in Rural PNG over the last 10 years?

Andrew Knott: AFL and rugby league have been quite aggressive in the rural areas and have been successful because they have been able to promote games that are naturally appealing to these people. In recent times, cricket has not been able to make the inroads that these sports have lately.

Stinga: Can you tell us about the junior development programs you have in place?

Andrew Knott: Over the last two years, the Liklik Kriket program has been very successful in the Port Moresby region. Modelled on Australian “Kanga” cricket, this program involves taking junior cricket into the villages and caters to children under 13 years of age. Parents and adults are also able to be involved through administration, coaching and umpiring. This year, Liklik will expand to settlement areas around Port Moresby where people of non-traditional cricket playing areas (such as the highlands) have settled. The Port Moresby school cricket program, Kriket Bilong Sumatin (KBS), has also been successful in reaching youngsters who would not normally come into contact with the game. KBS won the ICC’s 2005 Global Development Award for best junior development program and had over 50 teams involved in the program. KBS has both a boys and girls competition and also features formal school clinics run by our Development Officers. These clinics are well received by government schools where there is little in the way of an organised physical education program.

Stinga: How many citizens receive free to air cricket telecasts in PNG and what impact has this had?

Andrew Knott: The nation’s only free to air station, EMTV, covers some of the Australian summer of cricket and usually plays most of the triangular one day series. The one day series are extremely popular and many children take to the streets to play cricket around this time. In PNG, watching and mimicking the exploits they see on television plays a large part in their skills development.
For the first time, a PNG national team will be telecast live into PNG when EMTV broadcast highlights of our U19 team fixtures against India and South Africa.

Stinga: If PNG becomes a top six associate, it will require a ground with a turf pitch to host ODI’s and Intercontinental Cup matches. Are there plans to construct a turf pitch?

Andrew Knott: There have been plans to lay a pitch turf in PNG since last decade when Allan Border turned the first sod of a ground breaking ceremony at the Amini Park complex. Unfortunately, AB’s efforts were as far as any development went that time. Lately, there have been efforts to improve the facilities at Amini Park through the construction of Cricket Haus, where PNGCB’s current administration holds office. This year new practice nets will be erected. At the completion of this project, the current Board plan to conduct a turf wicket feasibility study and look at viable options for the development of the Amini Park complex. A turf wicket in PNG is also one of the goals of the ICC EAP 2008-10 Strategy Plan.

Stinga: What about a ground large enough to hold big crowds. Will Amini be redeveloped or should another ground be built?

Andrew Knott: With the establishment of Cricket Haus at Amini Park, the Board is looking to develop this precinct (which comprises two ovals) as the centre for PNG cricket. Port Moresby already faces a chronic shortage of sporting fields and these fields are also under threat from property development. Land ownership in PNG is not based on the Western method and this makes greenfield projects a difficult proposition to develop.

Stinga: Can you explain to us how village cricket is played in some regions? I’ve heard entire villages have been known to take to the field?

Andrew Knott: As mentioned, Trobriand Islands cricket is famous for its festivity and colour. Both men and women take to the pitch wearing only grass skirts and there is no limit to the number of players on each team. Some matches can go on for days.

Stinga: What is the format of the national championships and who competes in this tournament?

Andrew Knott: The national championships is being replaced this year by the Super Series. The Super Series will bring together the top 56 players in the nation who will compete for four teams in a series of Twenty20 and One Day fixtures. For the first time, players will be paid and cricket will take on a semi-professional attitude. The Super Series concept aims to provide the highest quality and most competitive domestic cricket competition possible within PNG, and will hopefully eliminate the lopsidedness of the national championships results seen in the past.

Stinga: One fan would like to know why so few players outside Port Moresby have made it to the national team in recent years and are rural players treated fairly in selection matter?

Andrew Knott: Many great cricketers have come from outside Port Moresby and centres such as Lae have provided the PNG national team with fantastic players.Port Moresby is a cricketing stronghold because it lies along the southern coast of PNG where cricket was introduced to the villages by missionaries. Historically, therefore, these traditional cricketing villages are within a relatively short distance from Port Moresby and have fed village cricketers into the local Port Moresby competition. The Port Moresby Cricket Association therefore remains the strongest competition in the country and includes many players and team from the Central Province area and further along the coast.

Stinga: The new participation figures for PNG showed a decline in numbers: How did the teachers strike impact these figures?

Andrew Knott: Last year’s research figures showed a decrease in junior playing numbers due to the suspension of the KBS program caused by the teachers strike. We have big plans to improve the school competition this year and improve the participation figures. The appointment of a Development Manager next month to oversee the schools comp and other junior activities will assist in improving participation rates.

Stinga: The Under-19 World Cup squad: Which players should we be keeping an eye out for at the World Cup?

Andrew Knott: The Captain, Colin Amini, is a promising batsman and off spinner who comes from blue-blood cricketing stock. Viewers will note that his bowling action is a lot like Murali. Bowlers Loa Nou, Jacob Mado and Willie Gavera will hit the deck hard and make an impression.

Stinga: The bowling looks strong: What kind of pace are we talking about in regard to Jacob Mado, Willie Gavera and Loa Nou?

Andrew Knott: Jacob, Loa and Willie are raw and fast. Loa has already opened the bowling for the PNG national team and Jacob also played for the ICC EAP rep team at last month’s Australian Country Championships. Willie has also spent some time in Australia recently at the Cricket Australia Centre of Excellence.

Stinga: We’ve heard exciting reports about Charles Amini jr. Is he still bowling leg breaks as reported?

Andrew Knott: Charles is one of the youngest members of the team and has great skills. At last year’s ICC EAP Under 15 Tournament he was named Player of the Tournament and snared a hat-trick. This mirrored his achievements at the previous ICC EAP Under 15 tournament two years ago when he took a hat-trick at that event as a 13 year old. Charles has been named in the U19WC squad and is a player to keep an eye on in the future.

Stinga: Ok, to future plans: If you could demand 3 things that would assist PNG cricket, what would they be?

Andrew Knott:1. Funding from the ICC equivalent to those countries in the Asia development region. 2. Further development of local coaches. 3. Greater investment in infrastructure

Stinga: What are the goals of PNG cricket in the next 10 years?

Andrew Knott: The mission of our 2006 – 2010 Strategic Plan is to qualify for the 2011 World Cup. We are currently embedded in World Cricket League 3 and must do well at the upcoming WCL3 tournament in Argentina and the subsequent ICC World Cup Qualifier to achieve this mission.

Stinga: A fan wants to know: How old is Vani Vagi Morea? His age is not listed on the major cricket sites.

Andrew Knott: Vani is 24.

Stinga: Another fan wants to know: when will Kila Pala be given an extended run in the national side?

Andrew Knott: Kila has been scoring well in the Port Moresby league this season and, along with a number of top order batsmen, is in contention for a spot in the national squad when it is named mid-year.

Stinga: Finally: Can PNG become a top 10 cricketing nation in the future?

Andrew Knott: Of course! There is no reason why PNG can’t make it to this level, although this achievement will take a lot of commitment and effort from a wide number of people over a long period of time.

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February 21, 2008 - Posted by | Papua New Guinea | , ,

9 Comments »

  1. Very good interview Ben. Very informative. I like Mr. Knott’s optimism, although he didn’t seem to give much on plans over the next ten years (I would have liked to know more on that). The Super Series and semi-pro move can only help PNG and perhaps with future expansion in schools and a good junior development programme they may uncover enough talent and provide sufficient training for PNG to raise a few eyebrows at the U-19 World Cups and eventually at the senior World Cups. I noticed he said games in the Trobiand Islands can go on for days…it would seem that at the very least when PNG becomes a full member (as I hope they will) then a Test match won’t seem strange and too long there. Might even get a decent crowd.

    I also like your optimism with regards to PNG possibly playing in Australia’s domestic setup at some point in the future. I would love to see that myself and I firmly believe that if PNG’s full team were allowed to play against some domestic Australian teams (even State Second XIs or ACT or Northern Territory) on even a semi-regular basis then we would see an improvement in PNG’s standards. It would even help if PNG could play in Queensland’s domestic competitions. As it is and as much I would love to see it happen, I doubt we would see anything like that soon. Australia and New Zealand are particularly aloof of the full members…they aren’t even a part of the East Asia-Pacific ICC region (they aren’t a part of any ICC region for that matter) and while I applaud an EAP rep team being sent to the Australian Country Cricket Championships, it did look a bit bad to me that Australia couldn’t have arranged for 2 teams: a PNG team and an EAP team with players other than Papuans. That way PNG would benefit and players from other EAP countries would have a chance to play against some good opposition in Australia.

    By the way Ben, what’s the deal with being a “top 10 cricketing nation”? I noticed you asked it in the interview with Taj Malik Alam as well. I don’t understand it, since the term implies that at least some of the current top 10 would no longer be in that category. My hope is for the current 10 full members to remain as top teams (not necessarily in the top 10) but also for at least 10 to 20 associates and affiliates to become top teams (and full members) as well and to be considered as such without being rubbished by everyone for not being in the top 10 or even the top 8 as Bangladesh is now. Genuine cricket expansion can only come about when the full members expand their mental boundaries to fully accept cricket in other countries and when those countries improve to be consistently competitive with them.

    Again though, very good interview. I’m looking forward to more in the future. Keep up the good work and the good fight in giving exposure to associate and affiliate cricket.

    Comment by Chris | February 21, 2008 | Reply

  2. Hi chris

    Thanks for the kind words.

    I’m not saying that the full members will necessarily weaken.

    I’m talking about current associate members busting into the top 10 ODI rankings, like Ireland have.

    And if a few full members are displaced, then so be it.

    Comment by benstinga | February 21, 2008 | Reply

  3. Hmmm…seem to have done something wrong when trying to italicize the “and” from “and when those countries….”. Oh well.

    Comment by Chris | February 21, 2008 | Reply

  4. Ah I see, but that’s sorta what I was referring to in that I think worldwide cricket (and sports in general) would be better off if associates and affiliates didn’t have to bust into the top 10 of anything just to get recognized as Ireland had to. Namibia isn’t thought of too highly outside of the assoicate and affiliate circles but their overall first-class performance and especially their first-class match against Kenya when Gerrie Snyman made 230 was something that I think the full members should recognize for what it is (a stunning performance) and really focus on developing cricket there and elsewhere. As it stands, by definition the number of countries that can break into the top 10 is going to be limited since there can only be ten “top 10” teams, whereas if the top 20 or so were all more or less on level terms (at least capable of having a shot to win the World Cup) then the idea of a top 10 wouldn’t and shouldn’t hold any special significance. Then as time goes by and cricket expands the ICC should aim to have top 30 or so should have more or less the same significance as the top 10 today or top 20 of tomorrow (and naturally move on from there).

    Comment by Chris | February 21, 2008 | Reply

  5. Yes, I agree. That would be a fair way of going about this.

    But at the moment, we have 10 full members, who are doing everything in their power to stifle the growth of cricket outside of their own purple circle.

    When I say top 10: I mean challenge those 10 full members. No, better still, beat those 10 full members.

    We (Associates and affiliates) are going to have to “force” our way in otherwise, I fear, we will never be acknowledged or recognized by those who continue to complain about the ICC’s development program.

    Comment by benstinga | February 21, 2008 | Reply

  6. Unfortunately you’re right. The 10 full members won’t acknowledge Namibia, PNG and so on until they can starting beating them (and preferably starting beating at least the number 2 and number 3 teams) and only then will it expand to more than 10 and the idea of a top 10 become redundant, being replaced by a top 15 and then a top 20. The good thing about it is that after a few of the associates begin to really challenge the current 10 full members (especially India and South Africa – Australia are on another world and they don’t even acknowledge a top 10 much less the associates) then the crop of full members should expand and that should make it easier for other associates in the future to make a challenge to be included since they would only have to bust into the the “top whatever-number-it-becomes” of the membership. Such a shame though, the same attitude is found in football. It was really annoying in the last FIFA World Cup to hear American commentators go on and on about Ghana and the Czech Republic’s chances against the World’s number 5 team (the USA at the time) as though being in the top 10 bracket or top 5 bracket really meant anything (and now that the USA are number 26 and Ghana is number 14 just a couple years later I’m sure those commentators would sing a different tune even though in all likelyhood both teams would be competitive when playing against each other).

    Comment by Chris | February 21, 2008 | Reply

  7. I think the interview above was enlightening and exciting about the future of cricket and a united and evolving PNG. I worked in the aviation industry in PNG immediately prior to Independence and drawer some vital experiences from those days. The debate by Chris is all a bit intense and I do not think other watchers of the sport locally may not take the same line. It is courageous to continue the growth and nuture a sport like cricket in PNG perhaps at present in coastal areas but so what it is part of a plan and the international opportunities that will continue to present PNG teams will assist in the longer term development and popularity of the sport! There is space for alternate sports and each is special as an avenue to build human energy and enjoyment in team work, fitness and discipline. I laughed with joy about the current matches in the Trobiand. It is a special area and the people are beautiful: and having a go. What an idillic setting for beach cricket. I am encouraged that the various government and local agencies are supporting the development in sport and cricket and these are part of the tool kit in socio / eco-development of individuals and communities and their potential role in an international theatre. Well done and I think a good interview. Keep up the great work Andrew and is it true that the Samoans miss you so dearly?

    Comment by Stuart | March 3, 2008 | Reply

  8. Stuart

    I will ask Andrew a few follow up questions if he is ok with it.

    Yeah, I think PNG is a promising cricketing country.

    Their next big test is in the World Cricket League Div 3.

    It will be tough against Uganda, Argentina, Cayman and possibly Afghanistan, USA, Nepal or Jersey.

    Comment by benstinga | March 3, 2008 | Reply

  9. More good news coming from PNG courtesy of The National newspaper.

    Comment by benstinga | March 18, 2008 | Reply


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