If you were to mention to Martin Papworth that he is being considered as the focus of any sort of media attention the first thing he would say is I don’t deserve the attention. It’s a team effort.
But every good team has to have a leader and to the flourishing Chiang Mai junior cricket scene that guidance has been quietly provided by Papworth for the past 15 years.
That was when the 52-year-old Chiang Mai resident who arrived on vacation from his native England in 2003 only to become a permanent resident soon after, started to volunteer for the Chiang Mai Schools Cricket Alliance (CMSCA) eventually becoming Chairman.
To say he took the ball and ran with it after becoming CMSCA chairman would be an understatement. Under his guidance, without any fanfare but with much help from his fellow team of volunteers, he went on to develop and build up junior cricket in Chiang Mai to the point where it’s now a thriving reality that is certainly not going away anytime soon.
“It’s been quite a success story over the years,” said a modest Papworth. “It’s not about me. It’s about the kids, and to that end it’s helped develop young girls and boys from the ages of six through 18, some of whom have gone on to play at the international level. Quite a number of our girls now play for Thailand which is now ranked 12th in the world. A great many young boys have reached the national team as well. We’ve exposed the game to thousands of kids over the years using plastic bats and rubber balls to start with.
”We usually work in nine to 10 schools during the week. We’re in the curriculum of the schools and cricket has now become a recognized sport in Thailand so it gets government help. It’s also included in the national games and youth games. The ladies recently won gold and men bronze at the Southeast Asia Games. So there have been great strides. It’s still a peripheral sport but Chiang Mai is now the centre of junior cricket in Thailand,” he said.
Papworth added there are currently 350 children playing the game in and around Chiang Mai, training two to three times a week with games on Sunday.
Besides his work with the Chiang Mai junior cricket development program, Papworth has also worked as a fellow organizer for annual Chiang Mai International Cricket Sixes tournament – including the recently held 31st – and has been a general mainstay as a player, coach, referee and administrator in the Chiang Mai cricket scene for many years.
“Without Martin and his wife Puy’s herculean efforts, it is unlikely there would even be a junior cricket program in Chiang Mai,” said Chris Coombes who plays regularly for locally based Lanna Cricket Club and performed for the Stuffed Beavers at the 2019 Chiang Mai Sixes. “Thanks to their dedication there are players from Chiang Mai who have progressed onto the national Thai team.”
Richard Lockwood, chief scorer of the international cricket sixes tournament, has worked with Papworth for a number of years and has seen just how much he has truly contributed to junior cricket in Chiang Mai.
“Martin literally looked after a whole team of hill tribe kids,” he said. “That’s even more amazing than his cricket work. Just looking after these kids is quite admirable.”