17 August 17 The Straits Times by V.K. SANTOSH KUMAR
Singapore's men's cricket teams are the favourites to land golds at Twenty20 and 50-overs tournaments over the next fortnight in Kuala Lumpur, where the sport will be played as a medal sport for the first time in the SEA Games.
But the coaches and players are not over-confident despite the fact that they have the best record among the six participating national sides - Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam are the others - over the past year.
They are aware that Malaysia know the Kinrara Oval well and that the hosts can become formidable rivals in familiar conditions.
"Malaysia are indeed our main opponents," said coach Arjun Menon, 40. "We have beaten them convincingly in international matches in recent months, but they will have home support and will play with confidence as they know the pitches and the ground well."
Singapore, who open their 50-overs campaign against Indonesia today, rank 23rd in the International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings, three places above Malaysia.
In May, at the ICC World Cricket League Division 3 event in Uganda, they beat Malaysia by seven wickets with 26 overs to spare.
"Malaysia have a tendency to crack under pressure," said Chetan Suryawanshi, 32, who skippered the Singapore side in Uganda. "We have a psychological advantage as we have performed better than them in the last year."
S'PORE MEN'S CRICKET
50 OVERS AND T20
Anish Paraam (Capt), Navin Param, Rezza Gaznavi, Prasheen Param, Janak Prakash, Varun Sivaram, Abhiraj Singh, Anantha Krishna, Shoib Razak, Dharmichand Mulewa, Vivek Vedagiri, Arun Vijayan
Pramodh Raja, Riaz Altaff Hussien, Iishaan Shekhar
ONLY 50 OVERS
James Muruthi, Karthik Suresh, Deepak Sarika
Singapore have several promising youngsters, such as all-rounders Janak Prakash, 16, Varun Sivaram, 22, and Abhiraj Singh, 22, and stalwarts such as off-spinner Dharmichand Mulewa, 33, and medium-pacers Pramodh Raja, 37, and Shoib Razak, 39.
Captain Anish Paraam, 27, has had successful league stints in Australia and England.
Malaysia rely on captain and left-handed opener Anwar Arudin and middle-order batsmen Ahmed Faiz and Virandeep Singh for runs, while their chief wicket-takers are spinners Pavandeep Singh, Virandeep and Shukri Rahim.
"The Kinrara Oval is known for its batting-friendly pitches," said Menon. "We bat deep. So the key is to bowl and field well. We have a good set of medium-pacers and spinners who can do the job."
Among the other teams, Thailand are the strongest, but they have played matches only at regional level. Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam, who figure only in the T20s, are unknown quantities.
"We have to win all our matches as the 50-overs competition has a round-robin format with the winners based on who gets the most points," said Menon. "So, the gold will essentially boil down to our match with Malaysia (on Aug 23 which will be played under lights)."
Singapore are drawn with Indonesia and Vietnam in the group stages of the T20 tournament, while Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar form the other group.