Six teams participated in the tournament, organized by Hardeep Singh, the president of the Ukraine Cricket Federation. It included BobTrade Sports Club Kharkiv, Boss Cricket Club, Kyiv Pioneers Cricket Club, Kyiv Cricket Club, Kaharlyk Cricket Club and Istil Cricket Club. Bob Trade Sports Club Kharkiv won the tournament, beating Kyiv Cricket Club in the final.
For S. Thamarai Pandian, cricket is more than just a sport, it brings him feeling of being home. In India, cricket is practically a religion. Now he wants to make it popular among Ukrainians, too. Pandian, the head of the representative office of drug company Dia Pharma, is one of those who supported the Champions Trophy 2017 cricket tournament. The event took place at the sports ground of Kyiv’s National Aviation University on Sept. 3. Pandian has been promoting cricket in Ukraine since 1999. The sport is now played not only in Kyiv, but also in Kharkiv, Odesa, Uzhgorod, Ivano-Frankivsk and Vinnytsia, with tournaments being held regularly from May through September. Local businessman and Indian expats have been actively engaged in funding the games, Pandian said.
“Ukrainians love to try new sports, and with the rise of fitness consciousness, it’s easy to show them it’s worth trying,” Pandian explains. Such tournaments, he said, are also good for building up the South-Asian community, which is constantly growing. “It’s a nice way to enjoy the weekend with your family, while cheering for the players,” Pandian said.
Wayne Zschech, who’s the captain and coach of Ukraine’s first cricket team (which is based in the Kyiv Oblast town of Kaharlyk, and fields locally born players), shares the sentiment. A native of Australia, Zschech – who moved to Ukraine in April 1993, just a week before his 18th birthday – finds cricket a perfect “stress reliever.”
“It’s also a bonus for the local community,” Zschech explains. Kaharlyk, a town of 13,757 residents located 80 kilometers south of Kyiv, now boasts one of the country’s best cricket grounds. The town’s mayor and Indian community funded the cricket ground, and school children like to play there. Zschech also hopes to establish Ukraine’s first children’s cricket league in future.
Even though Ukrainian cricket has a long way to go, Indian Ambassador to Ukraine Manoj Kumar Bharti said the country has “good potential.”
“In India, cricket was the first game that gave a nation a sense of pride and identity,” the ambassador said. “In Ukraine, we hope to see more enthusiasts willing to play. Also, there are many expats playing with local players now. It’s a very promising field of sport and it gives Ukrainians a chance to explore India.”