Pitching a new game

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Kanishko Das talks to Chairman of Cricket NSW Dr Harry Harinath on his recent trip to India and the exciting MOU between NSW and the Mumbai Cricket Association


Australia and India, when playing against each other, seem to bring out the best in each other. We have a strong rivalry on field, but off the field we are strengthening our ties by the day

Premier of NSW Barry O’Farrel and Chairman of Cricket NSW Dr Harry Harinath, along with a delegation, went to Mumbai recently and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Cricket NSW and the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA).
This largely successful tie-up is set to improve the ties between India and Australia, both cricketing and otherwise. With the Indian cricket team coming to visit in a highly anticipated tour, Indus Age caught up with Dr Harry Harinath and quizzed him about the MOU with the MCA, the visiting Indian team, and his passion for cricket. We also decided to explore the lesser known side of him, that of a medical practitioner.

Q. How did the MOU happen?

We did check out various cricket associations in India, but we found Mumbai to be a perfect fit because they are very similar to NSW Cricket. They have a very strong regional competition; produce test players and names of international calibre. We thought joining hands would make the two associations much stronger as state bodies. We are looking at junior cricket programmes, cricket development programmes, coaching programmes, administration exchange, and women’s cricket. I believe there is a lot we can learn from each other.

Q. What happens from here on in then?

Well it’s only been a couple of weeks. We have the backing of the Government of New South Wales, and will be hosting a T20 game between the NSW Premier’s Eleven and the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s Eleven. It will be played every two years, once in Sydney and once in Mumbai. Mark Taylor has consented to give his name to the trophy, and we are waiting for the MCA to give a name to the trophy. So we are looking forward to sharing some exciting cricket.

Q. The India-Australia on field rivalry, in the recent years has surpassed the India-Pakistan rivalry, and is often deemed as one of the most electrifying encounters of present day cricket. Your thoughts?

India-Pakistan and Australia-England face-offs are traditional rivalries. What has changed in recent times is that Australia and India, when playing against each other, seem to bring out the best in each other. That’s where the difference is starting to show. We have a strong rivalry on field, but off the field we are strengthening our ties by the day.

Q. After a glorious run over the last one and a half decades, the Australian cricket team seems to have hit a rough patch in the last couple of years, with the team itself seemingly divided.

The Simon Katich issue plaguing the National Cricket Team, talks of Ricky Ponting’s retirement hanging in the air, how ready do you think the Australian Cricket team is?
It is true that the Australian team has been on top for more than a decade, and the fact of life is that you can’t remain there all the time. Sure to say Australia will fight hard to regain the top mantle. At this point in time, the competition has become strong; other international teams have upped their game in the last few years. The standards of play have become strong.
That’s one part. The second part is that our Australian team is in a rebuilding phase, and off-late there have been small victories. I am sure in a year or two we will be competitive again, at loggerheads with the best teams vying for the number one spot. We shouldn’t be overly concerned about the current patch Australian cricket is going through, it is just a rebuilding phase, and we have a lot of young talent coming through. I am sure in the not too distant future, we will have a very strong team.

Q. Australia struck back recently, levelling the series against South Africa in Johannesburg. Do you think this is a sign of turning tides or are we speaking too soon?

This is definitely a good sign; we are definitely seeing some positive changes both on and off the field. We have recently signed Mickey Arthur as our coach, and he has a reputation of making good teams. I am fairly confident that we are seeing the changes we want. Within a year or two we will have put together a strong team.

Q. The Indian cricket team, after an abysmal outing against England in England, returned the favour when England came visiting. Can Australia stop this on home turf?

I don’t think it’s going to be a question of Australia stopping India or India stopping Australia, I think it will be a very good contest. India has over the years developed a very strong side with some awe-inspiring talent. India has its legendary batting line-up and with the new spin talent they will be a tough side. India has proved itself to be a formidable side in its recent outings, and when they land on Australian shores, we can definitely hope to have a tight contest between the two sides.

Q. Coming to you, you have always been cricket crazy in life. You served as president of the Sydney Cricket Club for over a decade, the State’s medical director for close to two decades and now you are chairman of NSW Cricket. Has this passion always been there or was it triggered at a certain stage in your life?

(Laughs) I don’t think you will ever find an Indian who doesn’t have a passion for cricket. I guess my beginnings were as humble as any. It had its beginnings in India at a sub district level. Back then it was just a pass-time really.
Then years down the line, medicine happened and so did cricket. One thing led to the next, and finally we come to present times with NSW Cricket where I was lifted to the position of Chairman in 2007.
I have been in the Board of Cricket Australia since 2004. It is a pleasure to serve the game we all love.
The seed was planted back since my childhood days in India. I wouldn’t say I was an outstanding player. I would say my love matured when I started to get involved with the clubs. Originally called the Balmain Cricket Club we now know it as the Sydney Cricket Club, I served the club for over a decade. It is one of the leading clubs. It is fantastic to see changes the club has undergone, the Drummoyne Grounds have been renovated to world standards. It has been a very humbling experience through the years.

Q. Juggling between a medical practice and NSW Cricket must be a steep ask. You have a long list of achievements to your name, Medal of the Order of Australia, for services to cricket and the community and in September 2010, you were awarded Life Membership of Cricket NSW for your outstanding service to cricket in this State, in March this year you were appointed an Advisor to the Coca-Cola South Pacific Health and Wellness Advisory Council.
How do you manage?

(Laughs) Don’t forget the family. I think it’s top priority, then come the other two in life. It is a bit of hard work juggling the two but I couldn’t have done it without the immense support of my family, my wife, my children and my two year old grandson. They always support what I do. Luckily as well, I am not in a group practice. So when I am busy they cover my workload and when I am there I help out as well.

Q. Cricket does bring people together…

At the end of the day, the reason we all love the game is that, it not only brings the playing teams together, it also brings the two countries together. We have a premier now who is a great supporter of cricket and a great admirer of India. We had some wonderful exchanges with the Government of Maharashtra, it was a good boost.