The Shri Shri Cricket Academy at Doon Public School, Sector 21, here is turning out to be a popular breeding ground for South Korean cricketers. First, the South Korean national team trained here for a month while preparing for the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon and then made it to the quarterfinals. Now, 19-year-old South Korean cricketer Lee Kang Min has been camping in Panchkula for five months, learning and finetuning the nuances of the game.
Lee was spotted by the director of the Shri Shri Cricket Academy, Arun Kanojia, at Incheon around the Asian Games. With cricket dreams in his mind, Lee agreed to be in Panchkula for six months, hoping that this would help him become a member of the South Korea national team. Lee has turned into a skilful wicketkeeper-cum-batsman and, last week, he was declared as the most promising cricketer in a local tournament.
Although his visa expires in the second week of January, Lee isn’t complaining. “The last five months have been so enriching for me, I must have played at least 40 practice matches. Back in my hometown, I just played in the Korean League that is conducted by the Korean Cricket Association where mostly Indians, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi cricketers took part. I wanted to do more, so I came here. The experience has been phenomenal.”
Lee, a Sports Science student at the Sungkyunkwan University, was born in Ansal and has played baseball, taekwondo and has also been a state-level cager. It was while he was at the university that his love for cricket grew stronger and he made lots of Asian friends. Because he was a pitcher while he played baseball, it helped him turn into a wicket-keeper.
A big fan of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli, Lee hopes to visit Australia next where he has applied for a scholarship to train there. “Back in South Korea, India and Australia are termed the best for cricket training. We as a nation look up to India most. It would be great playing in the Indian and Australian leagues in 2015,” said Lee, who flies back to South Korea in January and will be back in Panchkula in the later half of 2015.
Lee knew Hindi and Urdu before coming to Panchkula; this helped him making friends and understanding the game better while interacting with the coaches. His father Lee June Hyunk, a former cricketer and director of the Korean Cricket Association, knows eight languages and that helped his son pick up Hindi and Urdu. What was new for Lee was the Indian food.
“I just love Indian food, especially the chutneys and the paranthas. Aaloo paranthas are my favourite. I will be taking back great memories from this India trip and also motivating other fellow cricketers to come to Panchkula for further training,” said the South Korean, who trains for almost seven to eight hours every day.
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