Saturday, October 10, 2009


If truth be told, Dato’ Dr Harjit Singh is a doctor for Malaysian cricket.

The 59-year-old had acquired his passion for the game from his father Meva Singh, who was an ex-Selangor and renowned Kilat Club cricketer.

The good doctor learnt to score at the age of five, earned his personal bat at the age of six and came under the watchful eye of the famous Mike Shepherdson at the Kilat nets.

As a student of English College Johor Baru, Dr Harjit made news by being among the very few picked to play in the Combined Schools for four consecutive years -- 1965 to 1968. He was a star player in his teens, representing the Johor XI as a teenager in 1966.

The University of Ranchi medical graduate often made the headlines during his college days in India, captaining his college XI, playing first division cricket in the Patna Senior Division League and representing the Dhanbad District.

When he returned to Malaysia in 1980, Dr Harjit was a national player until a knee injury put paid to his playing days, but not his love for the game.

It is amazing how Dr Harjit’s enthusiasm for cricket has continued unabated all these years, but then the man had entered the game during its golden era in Malaysia – the 1960s.

Until today, Dr Harjit, whose trademark is his humility, credits his schoolteachers Terence Jayateleka, Gurdial Singh Jr and A. Kumaran with introducing him to the workings of cricket and instilling in him a dedication to the game.

If not for students like Dr Harjit and a few die hard sports teachers, cricket would have died a natural death in the 1966 boycott of extra-curricular activities by the National Union of Teachers to demand better working conditions and incentives.

The game suffered another blow in 1972 when the ministry of education dropped cricket, and rugby, from the schools sports calendar.

Again, a few teachers and students kept the cricket flag flying in schools. The worst setback for cricket and sport in schools came in the mid-Eighties when the intake of trainee teachers was based strictly on academic qualifications and no consideration for sporting excellence.

The likes of Yazid Imran and R. Ravindran, who were both representing the country in cricket then, had just left school and were seriously considering joining teachers training college. However, the duo from Johor was denied admission because their paper qualifications were not good enough.

Dr Harjit strongly believes that if Yazid and Ravindran had become teachers, cricket and sport would have benefited greatly from their knowledge and dedication. He says many more like Yazid and Ravindran suffered the same fate.

Meantime, the victim in all this was sport in schools, but not if Dr Harjit could help it.

He set the ball rolling in Johor by introducing the Kancil Programme Catch’em Young in 1987. The aim of the programme was to popularise cricket in schools and elevate its standard in the country.

The programme batted off with 17 schools in Johor Baru but today, it has spread to close to 200 schools in the state, with the involvement of almost all the 11 districts.

Dr Harjit, deputy president of the Malaysian Cricket Association (MCA) from 1990 to 2003 and chairman of the development, then went national with the programme.

The programme is known as Hardball Cricket at national level now, but in Johor, Dr Harjit continues to use soft balls because the game can be played even in small grounds and causes less damage to the buildings in the school compounds.

In Johor, even those schools in Felda schemes and kampungs get a taste of cricket.

Indeed, cricket has reached a new level in Johor, thanks to the tireless efforts of Dr Harjit, who has been president of the Johor Cricket Council (JCC) since taking over from D. Devendran in 1987.

Another milestone in Dr Harjit’s career as the healer of cricket was getting the Johor government to allot 14 acres for what is now the first cricket academy in Southeast Asia. The academy, which offers first class cricket facilities, is a regional centre for the sport.

Last year, the Johor Cricket Academy got a new indoor hall (below) and changing room when Dr Harjit, through the support of the Johor government and Ministry of Youth and Sports, managed to host the ICC Under-19 World Cup.

Menteri Besar of Johor Dato’ Ghani Othman best describes Dr Harjit’s feelings for cricket: "He is a passionate lover of the sport. He is always prepared to go the extra mile for Johor cricket."

This is not the only recognition for Dr Harjit’s efforts. His accolades have been coming from all corners of the world and in all forms – MCA, ICC, national and state awards from the government, a tournament named after him, the honour of sitting in on the Asian Cricket Council, leadership awards and above all, the respect of the world cricket fraternity.
Malcolm Speed (CEO International Cricket Council), Dr. Harjit and Sharad Pawar (President-Elect International Cricket Council)

Even as the heap of praises grows tall, Dr Harjit remains what he has always been: down-to-earth and jovial.

Meantime, the Johor Cricket Association once again saved the Saudara Cup – held since 1970 – from slipping into oblivion after MCA agreed to their request to allow them to host it.

This historic competition between Malaysia and Singapore was seriously threatened by the other Malaysia-Singapore encounters in the Asian Cricket Council tournaments. Again, Dr Harjit fought tooth and nail to keep it alive.

"The Saudara Cup is a historic competition between two friendly neighbours that created a spirit of heated but fair competition. Malaysian and Singaporean cricket lovers will be saddened if it is allowed to go into oblivion," he said.

It is amazing how Dr Harjit finds time to balance his career as a doctor, family man and cricket lover.

He was with the Johor Baru General Hospital for 11 years and had headed the ear, nose and throat department. Today, Dr Harjit has a private practice in Johor Baru.

He readily admits that his passion for cricket would not still be burning if not for the support of his family, especially his wife of 28 years Kaldip Kaur.

His two children have followed in his footsteps, with Rajinder, 24, doing his housemanship in Newcastle, Australia, and younger son Gurdip, who is with the Asia Pacific Institute of Information Technology, sharing his passion for cricket.

I have known Dr Harjit since I started writing for The Malay Mail in 1981. His name was synonymous with cricket and although I did not cover cricket, I was fascinated by his passion and his contribution to the sport, especially his emphasis on grassroots development.

Although Dr Harjit was in Johor, I kept in touch with him to tap his thoughts on sports development.

Here is an extract of what Dr Harjit said in my column – Level Field – in The Malay Mail dated March 25, 2005, under the heading “The dying breed”. The article was a tribute to teachers who had contributed to sport in Malaysia.

Dr Harjit Singh, the Johor Cricket Council (JCC) president for the past 19 years, is a dedicated worker who is an all action and hands-on man.

He has seen the many phases of Malaysian sports and testified teachers of the old school are a dying breed.

"We had teachers who were not only dedicated but would spend their own money to promote sports in their schools and State," said Harjit.

"But times have changed, economically and socially, and we cannot blame teachers who prefer to look after themselves financially first."

But that did not see Dr Harjit throw in the towel. He continues to do his part to keep the sport he loves so much alive.

I conclude my acknowledgment of “Doctor Cricket” with a tribute paid to him by the Malaysian Malays Cricket Association and Old Georgian Association in their souvenir programme for the third National Indoor Cricket championship. In appreciation of his service to cricket, the tournament’s challenge trophy was dedicated to him.

This is what was written about Dr Harjit.

Cricket, the game of gentlemen, has produced many gentlemen, on and off the pitch. Many were wonderful people who were great players and administrators. Among them is a special breed of a cricket player who has and continues to dedicate his whole life to this sport even after his playing days. One surefire character that is part of this special breed is the man they call “Mr. Cricket”. For this man, a fanatical supporter of this game, nothing comes between him and cricket. It is a lifelong dedication; one that has seen him well loved and greatly respected as a player and now as an official. Today, his drive and vision has seen the birth of the first cricket academy in South East Asia – the Johor Cricket Academy. This man is none other than the gregarious Dato’Dr Harjit Singh.

Dear Dato’ Dr Harjit, we salute you for your great service to cricket. Your work is a legacy that will live on forever in the fraternity.


As a player:

Played for English College Johor Baru from 1963 to 1966.

At 16, Dr Harjit became the youngest player to represent Johor in the senior Malaysian Cricket League in 1966 and with his high scores, found a place in the Malaysian Cricket Association President’s XI in 1968.

Captained his Medical College XI and represented Ranchi University and Dhanbad District while studying medicine in India.

Captained Johor state cricket team in the national league from 1982 to 1985 and returned to play for Malaysia in 1980.

As an administrator:

Johor Cricket Council President since 1987.

Malaysian Cricket Association Deputy President from 1990 to 2003.

Introduction of the first primary schools cricket programme in Johor in 1987 and later at national level.

Organised the first Under-12 national level cricket tournament in 1992.

Founder of the first Cricket Academy in Southeast Asia – the Johor Cricket Academy situated on a 14.25-acre site, housing the first Indoor Cricket Hall in Southeast Asia.

Malaysia’s representative in the Asian Cricket Council and the International Cricket Council from 1991 to 2002.

Awards and recognition:

Johor Sports Leadership Award (Tokoh Sukan) 1989.

Johor Sports Leadership Award (Tokoh Sukan) 1995

Best managed association award 1993

Special award (Anugerah Khas) for contribution to cricket by His Majesty the King of Malaysia, the late Tuanku Jaa'far Tuanku Abdul Rahman at the National Sports Awards (1998).

Johor Sports Leadership Award (Tokoh Sukan)

Pingat Ibrahim Sultan Class II by His Majesty the Sultan of Johor (1997)

Ahli Mangku Negara (AMN) by His Majesty the King of Malaysia (2003)

Darjah Paduka Mahkota Johor (D.P.M.J.) by His Majesty the Sultan of Johor which carries the title Dato’ (2007)

Global winner of the International Cricket Council Lifetime Service Award (2005). (First Malaysian and only the second Asian to have won this award. The first Asian was Zakir Hussain Syed of Pakistan. This is the only team or individual award won by Malaysia from the ICC. This year (2009) MCA President, Tunku Tan Sri Imran was bestowed the same award.

1 comment:

ravs said...

what a great visionary he is, i consider myself fortunate that i had the priviledge of meeting him while i am working in Johor Bahru