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Pitching cricket to Mongolia

AN accountant on distant shores is hoping to bowl over cricket fans in his native North Wiltshire as he tries to establish Mongolia’s first ever cricket pitch.

Chris Hurd, who was born in Swindon 38 years ago and fondly remembers playing cricket himself at East Kennet Primary School, has been in Mongolia since 2011 after setting up an accountancy firm.

He has now ended up doing the accounts for a rather unusual initiative, and is calling on people to help the project get off the ground by getting some money in the accounts to get the local children engaged with the game.

Speaking from Mongolia, Chris said: “It is a wonderful project led by this chap Battulga Gombo who was a professional judo player and then found out about cricket while in Australia where his wife was studying.

“He realised that it was a respectful game, similar to judo, learnt it, set up an non government organisation in 2007 and since 2011 has been teaching nomad kids from the countryside and from orphanages, schools and the police academy in Ulaanbaatar.

“They love it and he managed in 2014 to secure rights to a plot of land to develop into a cricket ground with four nets and a big water tank – as it doesn’t rain much here.

“There are no natural grass pitches here at all, although admittedly there is millions of acres of steppe land!

“So it would be a first for that as well as for cricket in a frontier country, and we’re having to research grass types that will survive here given the average temperature is zero and can get down to minus 40.”

At the time of going to press, Chris was enduring a chilly minus 28C.

The authorities of Ulaanbaatar’s National Park have granted rights to a perfect plot of land, safe from development and 4km from Chinggis Square, the centre of Ulaanbaatar.

He said: “The idea behind the scheme for the new pitch is that the organisation would look after the facilities and rent them out to those that can afford it, such as companies, expats and international schools and provided for free to the kids he’s teaching as well as subsidising outreach programmes.

"They are generally from the difficult background of the ger district — a ger is the Mongolian yurt — in which well over half the city’s population live with no public water, heating or sewage systems.

“It’s a really grass roots, shoe string, positive operation with both girls and boys participating.

“He’d like to expand it through building a pitch so that he can train up the next generation of coaches from the ger district and build a cricket community based around friendship and fun memories for the future.”

They are looking to raise in the region of £80,000 which would allow them to get good quality all weather surfaces and a reliable water storage and pavilion as well as covering the excavating, levelling and seeding.

Chris said: “We could get by with £45,000 forsaking the pavilion, making up the hard surfaces ourselves and cutting a couple of corners with the irrigation systems.”

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