Jakarta (Indonesia), Feb.5 (ANI): Cricket has blossomed in Indonesia and administrators of the sport are now dreaming of an Indonesian cricket team emerging as a rival to Asian super powers India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Despite its proximity to cricket-mad Australia, the mainly Muslim country of 234 million people was a stranger to the sport until the early 1990s when a handful of eccentric expatriates started their own league.
The Daily Telegraph quoted Cricket Indonesia chairman Sachin Gopalan as saying:"It used to be only social games played by expatriates. But it has changed.''
The foreigners, some driven by an almost maniacal enthusiasm, formed associations in Jakarta and the holiday island of Bali which culminated eight years ago in the formation of Cricket Indonesia.
In the past two years the number of players has tripled from fewer than 10,000 to 30,000, according to administrators.
"Cricket is growing exponentially here and there is a lot of hidden natural talent,'' Gopalan said.
One of the pioneers was Australian veterinarian Bruce Christie, who is credited with planting the seeds of cricket in the poor eastern province of East Nusa Tenggara in the mid-1990s.
"I had to keep my 11-year-old son amused,'' said Christie.
"So we started playing cricket and invited about 20 to 30 local people of mixed ages to play.''
The first games were held on local soccer fields and sometimes a tennis court, he said.
Cricket Indonesia general manager Prakash Vijaykumar said some of the locals who learnt to play with Christie went to Bali and spread their passion for the game.
"They have become pioneers of Indonesian cricket,'' he said. (ANI)