20.02.2020 - At this time last year, VSA volunteer and self-described “cricket tragic” Mark Young was immersed in cricket – in his case, the fledgling Timor-Leste cricket scene, working to develop cricket as a sport. Lack of equipment was the biggest issue, so Mark put the word out through the cricketing community in Wellington and collected 150kg of donated equipment!
Generous VSA donors including DHL “pitched” in to ship the gear (and a portable pitch too) to Timor-Leste.
We took some time recently to sit down with Mark (now known in Timor as “Mr Mark the Cricket Man”) to ask him what the highlights of his involvement in the last 12 months with cricket in Timor-Leste were:
The year started with the magical moment when 150 kilograms of cricket gear arrived in Timor-Leste. “It was like Christmas!” Mark told us. There was some great local publicity around the gear arriving which resulted in new young Timorese players being attracted to try the game.
In April, following the arrival of the portable pitch, there was the first tournament with the new cricket gear. By chance, David Moody, a first class Australian cricketer, was visiting his girlfriend in Dili and Mark managed to arrange for him to give a coaching session using the new gear and pitch.
Cricket has expanded out of Timor-Leste’s capital to the town of Ermera, where there is a lot of cricket being played by the young people living there. It has become a hotbed of cricket in Timor and they are starting to play at the new sports stadium which was completed in 2019.
Lastly, one of the highlights of the year was that two of the boys were able to attend a cricket camp in Darwin, Australia (accompanied by Mark). The boys “knocked the socks off the Australians!” with their ability. As well as the opportunity to play cricket and receive professional coaching, this was the first time that the boys had ever been on a plane and see things we take for granted like dishwashers! They had a fantastic time, and Mark told us that he noticed a real difference in their confidence after being in Darwin for a week and “holding their own on the cricket field.”
Supporting countries to achieve their development goals through sport is an area of work where VSA is increasingly getting requests for volunteers. Last year, VSA recruited and sent six volunteers to support the 16th Pacific Games in Samoa.
Mark has now headed back to Timor-Leste, as his wife Lara is now a VSA volunteer on assignment as a Pre-School Adviser with Ba Futuru, one of VSA’s partners. They’re going for their third year in Timor-Leste!
As for cricket - Mark has reduced his level of involvement to ensure that the game is locally driven at a level that can be sustained without him, but he still takes a keen interest in what is happening in Timor-Leste to the game that he loves so much.