The Phuket Youth Development Squad came joint third with Chonburi, but according to Senior Coach Bill Stahmer, the positives taken out of the tournament show that youth cricket on Phuket has a bright future ahead.
“During the Games, the boys improved every game from first to last. I’m happy, I’m proud, I had a warm buzz in my belly. Never before have I felt like that after a defeat,” he said.
“To me, our highlight was our fielding, and the improvement the boys showed over the course of a month. Our fielding was better than [gold medalists] Chiang Mai, in my opinion.”
That was probably the result of a concentrated effort to work on fielding prior to the tournament, as well as some good old fashioned discipline instilled in the side by Stahmer during training.
“The boys got sick of doing pushups,” he said, noting his ‘old school’ approach to coaching.
“By the end of the tournament, there was a lot more discipline in the way we were playing cricket.”
He said the side were let down though by some short and wayward bowling at crucial stages in the tournament, despite a hat-trick from medium pacer ‘First’ in one of the pool games.
Phuket won their first two matches of the Games, which were both reduced to seven overs from the usual 15 due to rain delays.
However, they came unstuck in their next match against eventual silver medalists Khon Kaen, though Stahmer said he believed his side put in one of the most spirited performances he’s seen.
They then needed a win against Chanthaburi to qualify for the semi-finals, and did just that, posting 80 from their 15 overs, before bowling out the opposition for 64.
“Once again, the highlight was the fielding, and the younger boys, the lower order, sealed the victory for us which was great to see.”
Perhaps the occasion got the better of the Phuket boys in the semi-final though, as they were unable to replicate their batting efforts, being bowled out for just 34. Chiang Mai eventually won the match by nine wickets, and went on to win the tournament.
“Our footwork was our downfall in our batting. Our bowling was too short, but our fielding was still on par with any other team in the competition,” Stahmer said.
But he added that more important than the results, which were still impressive in themselves, was the team spirit at the end of the competition.
“We weren’t good enough for gold. But I was so happy with where we finished because we improved so much in a month... They came out of it as such a close-knit team.”
There were also a couple of revelations in the side. Keeper ‘Pan’, 14, has played cricket for just three months, but looks like a proficient left handed batsman as well as a talented gloveman.
“Basically over the five games we played, everyone contributed. Everyone did something. To see that improvement was the most satisfying thing, and seeing how much potential there is to be tapped,” Stahmer said.
Next year, Phuket will lose one player from their current Under-19 squad, though with an average age in the side of just 16, it leaves them in good stead for next year’s Youth Games in March.