Arjun Menon is currently serving as the Game Development Manager at Singapore Cricket Association. This is where he started playing Cricket and dreamt of pursuing the game professionally. He soon realized his knack for coaching and started taking it more seriously. He grew up in an era watching champions like Ian Healy and Vivian Richards. His first stint with Coaching came to light when he took up a Coaching job with Cricket Chile in 2006. Chile recently entered into such a huge platform with many expats being part of the team. Arjun worked on nurturing the local talents and honed their skills. After Chile, he worked for Western Australian Cricket Association for close to 3 years. He further joined Botswana Cricket Association as a Coach and worked majority on the youth development program. He recalls, his experience at Botswana was immense and he completely enjoyed nurturing these local talents. He also Coached team Indonesia and was completely satiated seeing their performance in ICC EAP T20 Qualifiers which were held in Lismore, Australia in Nov 2014. This, by so far has been Arjun's best cricket moment. Arjun has a very profound message for all the Associate and Affiliate Cricket Nations at the end of the Interview. He has indeed contributed a lot in the overall cricket development of our community. Global Cricket Community would like to thank you Arjun. Keep up the good work mate!
1. Tell us about your first experience with Cricket? What age did you get in contact with the game?
I was introduced to the game at the age of 13, probably a lot later than I would have liked. Cricket in Singapore was an ailing sport in the early 90s and the local population did not have much awareness of the game. However, the Singapore Cricket Association launched a development program and I was part of the first batch to join in 1992.
2. Did you ever think of becoming a Cricket Coach? How did you get into this role?
Although introduced to the game in my teens, I really grew to love the game and also picked it up quite fast. I had ambitions of playing it professionally but there was no real stepping stone in Singapore to reach those heights, so at a later age, I still wanted to stay involved in the sport and chose to pursue a career in Sports Science support for cricket but as luck would have it, my coaching abilities were recognised and I decided to take a chance and see where it took me.
3. Who were your cricketing heroes whilst growing up?
I was a wicketkeeper and Ian Healy was a great influence but as I got to know more about the history of the game, West Indian greats like Viv Richards really caught my imagination. Through that I developed a love for West Indian cricket.
4. Describe your experience and association as a Cricket Coach with Chile?
Chile had just been given Affiliate status by the ICC and were looking to partake in their first ICC endorsed tournament which was the ICC Americas Div 3 tournament which was to be held in Paramaribo, Suriname is 2006. Six months prior to this, they had advertised for a coach who was willing to take up the role on a very modest salary. Being from a non test playing nation and trying to make a name for myself in coaching, I took up the role and this proved to be a good stepping stone for my career going forward. Cricket in Chile at that point was mainly played by expatriates, but they were very keen on developing local talent. I met some really committed people who put in their time and money into ensuring that young Chileans were introduced to the game. This commitment has borne fruit as looking at Chile's age group teams now, many are local products.
5. Describe your experience and association as a Cricket Coach with Botswana?
Working with Botswana was my longest stint as a national coach, having been involved for 2 years and 9 months. This gave me a good opportunity in investing my time in the youth development program which was in full swing before I arrived, of which I finally managed to groom a good number of them and channel them into the senior national team. There is a lot of talent in Botswana and seeing that Zimbabwe and South Africa were just next door, it was easy to test this talent against local teams from these two test playing nations on a regular basis. Botswana did well under my supervision as the senior team was promoted to the 1st Division T20 League of Africa in 2012 and was now playing amongst the big boys of Africa like Kenya, Namibia and Uganda. Botswana however were quite unfortunate in missing out on promotion in the WCL Division 6 twice by placing third on both occasions. It should be mentioned though that at that point , the team was predominantly local and boasted an average age of 21, which was what I was working towards to. All in all, it was a great experience, but the country does need to invest more in cricketing infrastructure and get it to be a core sport.
6 How do you see your association with Singapore Cricket now and what shall be your plans for the same?
My main role with the Singapore Cricket Association is in Game Development to try and get cricket more prominence amongst the primary school scene and introduce more locals to the game. In a country where academics are given much higher priority than sport, this is proving to be challenge but having been born and raised in Singapore and understanding the culture, I am making slow but steady progress,but it is a big task at hand nevertheless.
7. How do you view your influence on youngsters and whose success have you enjoyed the most?
I have always been quite a 'player's coach' and always willing to give them freedom of expression and to develop decision making skills to use out on the field.I believe everyone is different and if you can work on knowing which buttons to push which each player and make them understand their role in the team, collectively you can nurture a very competitive team. Also, make sure they enjoy playing the game, do not make it a task. Too many coaches take the fun out of a sport by being too demanding and unrealistic. I have been in touch with many of the players I have coached in various nations and all seem to be progressing well not just in cricket but in life in general which really pleases me.
8. Describe your recent achievements/activities that you had.
I guess the most recent achievement was during my time with Indonesia where with a relatively young and predominantly local team, managed to put on some good performances in the ICC EAP T20 Qualifiers which were held in Lismore, Australia in Nov 2014. Although the team lost 7 of their matches, playing against much fancied opponents like Fiji, PNG and Vanuatu,they put up a fight in all their matches and were rewarded with a first win in 4 years against the Cook Islands. This may not seem like much of an achievement on a larger scale, but only a coach who has worked with his team prior to such a high profile tournament will know how much dedication the team put in on the field and played way above expectations.
9. What should one practice and persevere from the beginning in order to become a Cricket Coach?
You need to love the game, think outside the box to try and suit your coaching environment and most of all, be realistic of what you expect from each individual or team.
10. A mentor / coach who has played a valuable role in your grooming and whom you would like to dedicate your achievements and successes?
My first coach, Ian Crossley,an Englishman living in Singapore who took charge of the SCA Development program who instilled the love of the game in me. He had a well rounded approach to teaching complete beginners with no cricketing history or knowledge,so I learned so much more than just knowing how to play the sport.
11. An Associate or an Affiliate Cricket Nation whose Cricket you have enjoyed the most and why?
Botswana was a joy to work with but I should bring attention to the nation of Vanuatu in the EAP region.Their athleticism and energy on the field and the way they play their cricket is a joy to watch and they are all locals. I do hope they go on to the higher echelons of cricket in the near future. Uganda, PNG and Nepal are also exciting teams to watch and once again, fully local, and that I feel is the key for a sport like cricket to take hold in emerging nations, which is to create local heroes for the youth to look up to.
12. Take us through a match / series which you have enjoyed the most personally and is still fresh in your heart.
Winning the Asian Cricket Council U16s Trophy as coach of the Singapore U16s team in 2010. The team was talented but inexperienced and to go undefeated throughout and to beat powerhouses Nepal in their backyard in the final in front of a 5000 strong pro Nepali crowd was quite an achievement from a team of youngsters.That was a special moment indeed.
13. In the Global Scenario, Which are the areas in Cricket that needs utmost and prime attention?
ICC needs to determine what their global outlook for cricket is. They speak of global development but do not walk the talk. Right now, cricket is very self serving for the top tier nations and are getting all the support and time. Cricket will die a quick death globally if more is not done. ICC should take a leaf out of IRB's (Rugby) book on how they have made a sport like rugby so much more global than it was just 20 years back. The recent rugby world cup was a joy to watch and a great celebration of the game as the next emerging global sport.
14. One message that you would like to convey to all the Cricket developing (Associate and Affiliate) Countries?
Do not be too dependent on the ICC for funding. Get the best people on board your respective committees, those who truly want to see the game blossom with locals taking up the sport and put the onus on yourselves to raise funding and cater to the development of the sport. The more individual nations make cricket a sport of choice for their people, the better chance of it being more globally spread beyond the test playing 10 in years to come.
15. Your take on Women's Cricket and how has it helped the entire Cricket ecosystem?
Women's Cricket can be very refreshing to watch in that for all the limited attention and funding they get, the passion and time so many women put into the sport must be commended. Perhaps the men's game can learn a thing or two from them.
16. Your advice to the youngsters taking up Cricket as a career?
Simple, be realistic, seeking a professional career in cricket is limited to a very few nations. Till the game is able to open up to the associate and affiliate world like football where a footballer from any nation has a pathway to professionalism, it will be very difficult and the cricketing world can be very unforgiving. The time for cricketers making it professionally from non test playing nations is not yet upon us and a lot lies in changing prevailing attitudes in test playing nations.
17. Your views on Global Cricket Community?
Great initiative and I just feel more can be done the champion the efforts and achievements of cricketers from the associate and affiliate world, many who are giving their time and commitment to a sport that does not earn them a living. Keep up the great work.