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Fiji Time: 4:33 PM on Sunday 31 August

/ Front page / Sport

Former champions

Rasheel Kumar
Saturday, April 19, 2014

RAKIRAKI is not known for any specific sport.

Like Ba, known for its brilliance in soccer, Rakiraki is not synonymous to any particular sport apart from soccer maybe in which the district dominated the premier grade lately.

However, the district in Ra province holds a proud history in cricket — the sport that once dominated the hearts and minds of the Rakiraki people.

Cricket is dying in the hands of other sports but there are few ardent supporters who are working hard to give the sport the recognition it deserves.

History

When Sada Reddy, 48, talks about the establishment of cricket in Rakiraki, he becomes excited.

Reminiscing those golden days brings a smile to his face.

He is proud to be part of the team that had players who gave prominence to the sport in Rakiraki.

"Cricket in Rakiraki was introduced in 1960s. Ratu Edward Cakobau was passing through the district sometime in 1960s when his car broke down," Reddy, who hails from Nanuku, Rakiraki, said.

"Some people came to help him out and there in his car they saw the cricket bat and ball for the first time.

"That's how we were introduced to cricket. The founders of cricket in Rakiraki made bats out of coconut leaf stalk and used plastic balls to practise."

It was a humble beginning but soon gripped the whole of Rakiraki.

Cricket became their favourite sport.

Golden era

Rakiraki enjoyed success in domestic cricket competition in 1980s and 90s.

Although it failed to win the Crompton Cup — the Holy Grail of Fiji cricket — the district came close to winning the major title several times.

One of the pioneers of the sport in Rakiraki, the late Appana, may also hold the record of being the oldest captain in the Crompton Cup competition.

Appana, who was a spin bowler, led the Rakiraki team in the 1980 Crompton Cup at an age of 75.

"The 75-year-old is a canefarmer from Nanuku, about 15-kilometres from Veileka Town, where some prominent national cricketers have been spawned in the past seasons," reported The Fiji Times in an article published in the 80s.

Reddy, who was one of the upcoming players then, credited Appana for bringing up many fine cricketers from Rakiraki.

"He was the captain of the Samabula Wanderers team that went on a tour of India in 1972. He was one of the pioneers alongside Kelly Valentine and Inoke Tabualevu," Reddy added.

"We had 200 families in Nanuku and every household had someone who was someway engaged with cricket.

"It eventually became more popular than soccer."

Slow death

Rakiraki lost the upcoming cricket players to other districts because of jobs.

Reddy said the rise of rugby particularly 7s also affected the popularity of cricket in Rakiraki.

"The sudden rise of 7s rugby and its popularity across the country killed the interest of cricket in the upcoming generation.

"The lack of facility also hindered the development of cricket and that's the reason cricket is basically lost in Rakiraki.

"It once was what soccer is to the people of Ba."

Future

With the new development programs introduced by Cricket Fiji, Reddy is optimistic it will help boost the sport in the country and in particular Rakiraki.

"The future of cricket in Fiji looks promising," the former Suva Cricket Association president said.

"Maybe one of the areas Cricket Fiji can boost is the domestic competition by introducing a league competition where district teams compete on regular basis.

"Right now, it's only during the Easter weekend where they compete for the Crompton Cup."


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