PON Papua

Saiffanto's five-year wait for PON cricket gold

Saiffanto's five-year wait for PON cricket gold

Batsman for the West Java cricket team at the PON XX National Games, Ahmad Nur Arif Saiffanto, strikes a pose for ANTARA before starting his practice session at the Mechanical Battalion Infantry 202/Tajimalela Field in Bekasi, West Java on Saturday (September 11, 2021). (ANTARA/Andi Firdaus)

As the PON XX National Games' opening day approaches, so does West Java cricket athlete Ahmad Nur Arif Saiffanto’s debut in the competition after a wait of five years.

Saiffanto, who was born in Kediri, East Java 26 years ago, has been assigned as a batsman for the West Java cricket team by the team's coach Hasan Basri.

The athlete said getting picked to bat for the team is challenging since, in cricket, a batsman holds a key position on the team.

A batsman's role is to score runs and prevent the loss of wickets to the opposing team, he noted.

Physical and mental preparation, as well as teamwork, are key for proving that the West Java cricket team is the strongest among other provincial teams participating in the quadrennial PON National Games hosted in Papua province, he said.

Saiffanto, who made 59 runs for the Jakarta Cricket Association in 2020, expressed his enthusiasm for participating in the National Games despite recently recovering from a finger injury he suffered while training several months ago.

“My personal record is 59 runs, but my achievement indeed is low compared with the English cricketer Joe Root who achieved an average of 100 runs from only several matches. The PON XX will be my career peak as I have trained since 2016 to participate in the games and win the gold medal,” Saiffanto said.

Mapping winning opportunities

Coach Basri has been training the West Java team twice a day from Tuesday till Saturday to prepare for the PON Games. The morning sessions, held from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., involve technical training, and the afternoon sessions, held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., involve physical endurance training and simulation games.

“I believe the physical and mental readiness of my athletes is at its peak, and our current task is to prevent players from getting injured. Injuries at this time might be fatal for our winning opportunity if they occur before the Games,” Basri said.

In the recent Cricket Indonesia men's T20 National Ranking that was updated on September 3, 2021, the West Java cricket team has placed fifth with 60 points.

The West Java team is currently trailing behind the East Nusa Tenggara cricket team, which is ranked fourth with 60 points. Meanwhile, the East Kalimantan team has scored 87 points, the Jakarta team has secured 99 points, and the Bali team, the top contender for the first rank, has obtained 240 points.

“Our current target in the PON Games is to defeat the Bali and Jakarta cricket teams. Earlier, we recorded a victory against Bali in the qualification match at the 2021 Sixes Tournament and a victory against Jakarta in the pre-PON National Games semifinal in 2019,” Basri said.

The coach admitted that besides the two major teams, his team is closely watching the Papuan cricket team, which is trailing the West Java team in the sixth h place, with a score gap of just 9 points. 

“We are advantaged from the divided Bali team, as some of their players were moved to the Papua team, and their best players are no longer with them,” Basri said.

Despite the losses, the Bali team remains a strong team as their athletes have a wide experience, he added. “The senior athletes may be more experienced but their stamina might be beaten by our young athletes. Cricket is an endurance game as one match may last for 3.5 hours,” the coach noted.

Basri said he hoped the West Java team would also perform well in Twenty20, Super 8, and Sixes cricket games as other major cricket teams, such as the Jakarta team, have suffered a setback due to player injuries.

Facing threats posed by the pandemic

The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2020 devastated the West Java cricket team, Basri said. Exactly half of the men’s team was infected by the virus, with athletes reporting mild to severe symptoms, he informed.

Living in close quarters likely caused the rapid infection among the athletes, he conjectured.

Basri said he and the players, who were earlier skeptical of COVID-19, also suffered from dyspnea.

“I remember all healthcare facilities in Bekasi at that time were overloaded, and health workers were not available to perform the COVID-19 test for the athletes. I and my assistant then took this matter into our own hands by performing the COVID-19 tests for the athletes with my own hand. As the testing equipment entered into their nose, they were coughing, and then we were infected, too,” the coach recounted.

He said the COVID-19 spike at that time forced him to send the athletes home. He then adopted a new training method by using a mobile application to monitor each athlete’s training and progress from their home.

Saiffanto remained consistent in training his batting hand despite being confined to his home in Kranji, Bekasi, and being forced to practice without a teammate, Basri said.

“Cricket shaped my discipline, honesty, teamwork, as well as physical and mental confidence – which is a must for me. I was also consistent in reporting my practice progress to the coach through the monitoring application,” Saiffanto said.

As a COVID-19 survivor, he is confident of his fitness for competing in the PON XX National Games, particularly after receiving his second vaccine dose in May 2021.

“I am motivated most by my family. Despite my mother earlier doubting my decision to become a cricket athlete, she is now completely supportive of me because I have proven to them that I can develop myself by having a career in sports,” Saiffanto remarked. (INE)


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