Record-breaking tourney in Sengkang

RAVI SINGARAM

The Singapore Social Cricket League (SCL), organised twice a year, has again entered the Singapore Book of Records (SBR) for the Largest Cricket Tournament on the island with 102 teams, 753 matches and 3,000 clubs-registered players.

It surpassed its record of 94 teams, which was set in its first season this year.

The record was previously held by the Ceylon Sports Club, which organised a tournament in 2010 with 52 teams that lasted 72 hours – from 8pm on Sept 9 to 8pm on Sept 12.

The SCL tournament, which began on June 3 this year and concluded last weekend, saw winners in three divisions – Elite, Premier and Deluxe.

All matches were played with weighted red tennis balls across three pitches at Sengkang Cricket Ground.

The tournament’s volunteer team lead Shaji Philip recounted its humble beginnings in 2007 with just eight teams.

“We started with a group of friends and volunteers and the tournament slowly grew to where it is now,” he said.

“The tournament aims to provide affordable cricket for migrant workers, who form the bulk of the players, and alleviate their daily stress through sports, as most of them are in Singapore without their families.”

No fee is charged for participation.

SBR President Ong Eng Huat admired the tournament’s concept.

“It is marvellous that some Singaporean volunteers have initiated this out of concern for migrant workers. It is a big act of kindness,” he said.

Volunteer Abdul Farhan, 37, who schedules the matches and ensures they are held properly, pointed out that the players too play a big role in the successful running of the tournament. “The players contribute by taking turns to do umpire duties,” he said.

In total, the tournament has six sub-leagues – Saturday Deluxe, Sunday Deluxe, Saturday Premier, Sunday Premier, Saturday Elite and Sunday Elite.

Each sub-league comprises 17 teams with its own quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.

Each team plays 14 games in the group stages, after which the top team books a direct spot in the semi-finals, while the next six battle in knockout matches for the last three semi-final spots.

The finals of all six sub-leagues took place last weekend, culminating in a mega final between the Saturday and Sunday champions from each division.

Each match is usually 15 overs. But due to rain last Sunday afternoon, the mega final was reduced to three overs per innings.

The top seven teams from each sub-league were promoted to a higher division for the next tournament that begins in January.

Kamalabathan Manikandan, 36, captain of Survivors, said his team members were thrilled with their Sunday Deluxe triumph.

“Most of our players were winning a championship for the first time,” he said. “They were making video calls to their family and friends in India to share their happiness.”

Survivors’ promotion to the Premier division was an extra cause for celebration.

This year’s tournament was also special for Joseph Alex, who led Avengers to the title in the Elite division. It was the 40-year-old’s last engagement with the league, as he is returning to India this year after 18 years in Singapore and 10 years playing in the tournament.

“It was a dream farewell,” he said, as he thanked his teammates for an incredible tournament.

An operations manager at an engineering company, he formed the team with migrant workers employed by his firm and their friends. Their B team, Avengers Plus, were runners-up in the Saturday Deluxe league.

N.A.S. Mohamed Abdul Kadir, 35, who has been playing in the SCL for the past 16 years, led SQ66, a young team of players aged between 15 and 23. They lost the Deluxe division semi-final by five runs in a tie-breaking super over.

“Shaji chettan (“elder brother” in Malayalam) does a wonderful job in organising the tournament, and takes care of me like my own brother,” said Kadir.

Shaji himself played as a bowler for Team Kala, which reached the quarter-final of the Saturday Elite.

He said SCL will be organising a T20 tournament this month with 64 teams, before the next season starts in January.

“We are aiming to bring the teams down to 96 so the scheduling would be easier,” he said. “We have also submitted an application to the Guinness Book of World Records for consideration as the “Largest Cricket Tournament at a Single Venue”.

We started with a group of friends and volunteers and the tournament grew to where it is now.
Singapore Social Cricket League volunteer team lead Shaji Philip (above)
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