SEA Games: Quintet from Sreerangam clan power Singapore cricket team in Kuala Lumpur

Members of the Sreerangam clan (from left) James, Peter, Stacey, Diviya, Prasheen, Navin and Anish.
Members of the Sreerangam clan (from left) James, Peter, Stacey, Diviya, Prasheen, Navin and Anish. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - When Navin Param sets off to bowl his off-spinners against Thailand in a SEA Games 50 overs cricket match on Tuesday (Aug 22), he will likely find his cousin James Muruthi behind the stumps.

If he were to look towards the off-side, he would probably see his eldest brother Anish directing operations as captain of the Singapore men's cricket team at the Kinrara Oval.

A glance from him to the right would bring into focus elder brother Prasheen running in from mid-wicket, while a swivel over his shoulders, would help him spot his cousin Diviya G.K., the captain of the Singapore women's cricket team, cheering on from the stands.

Yes, five members of the Sreerangam clan are on international duty for Singapore at the SEA Games cricket tournaments in Kuala Lumpur.

All accomplished cricketers, they are excelling in a sport after taking to it in the footsteps of Stacey Muruthi, who made his debut for the national team at the age of 16 and went on to play for the country for 32 years until 2001.

Muruthi's son James,2 9, is a wicketkeeper-batsman, while all-rounder Anish, 27, batsman Prasheen, 25, and opener and off-spinner Navin, 21, are the sons of his younger brother Sreerangam Paramanantham, 63.

Diviya, 30, a top-order batter and handy bowler, is the daughter of Muruthi's youngest sister Vannitha, 53.

"My proudest moment in cricket was when I bowled along with my oldest son Peter in a match against Hong Kong in Bangkok in 2001," said Muruthi, 65, managing director of logistics company FLS who became the captain of the national team at the age of 24 in 1978.

"Five members of my family playing at the SEA Games equals that. It's a great feeling. Pity Peter was not selected."

Peter, 31, an off-spinner, made his debut for Singapore at the age of 14. He and James were the first from the Sreerangam family to play for the national U-13s and they were followed into the various national age-group teams by the Param brothers - Anish, Prasheen and Navin.

"Our love for cricket was forged at the void deck of our grandparents' house in Ang Mo Kio," said Diviya, who has been the national women's team captain since 2009 and has played first-class cricket in the Netherlands and South Africa and club cricket in Australia.

"After lunch on Sundays we cousins and uncle Stacey used to play fiercely-fought matches with a tennis ball and make-shift stumps (using biscuit tins). It was healthy competition and all of us developed our skills from those clashes."

Prasheen points out that Peter has the best cricketing knowledge among the cousins, while James is the most competitive and talented. "Peter is the leader of the pack, he is inspirational, he is always supporting us," said Prasheen. "James toughened us up with his fielding drills, he has out-of-the-box ideas."

Among the Param brothers, Anish, who has a degree in business and finance from England's Durham University, is soft-spoken but the most hard-working.

In the past two seasons he has done well with bat and ball in Australia's North-West Grade A matches and England's Sussex League Division One.

Prasheen, who is studying accountancy and business at Nanyang Technological University and initially played hockey for Singapore at the junior level, is a free-scoring top-order batsman who has represented Singapore at all levels from U-13 .

Navin, who is pursuing a business degree at NTU, was the man of the match when Singapore won the Asian Cricket Council U-16 Elite Cup in Nepal in 2010.

Interestingly, the three brothers had never played together for Singapore until the national team's SEA Games nine wicket opening win over Indonesia last Thursday.

"It's a dream come true for all us to be playing together at the SEA Games," said Diviya, who is a country manger with wall-covering manufacturer Muraspec. "I have learnt a lot from my cousins who are the best. They are very talented, hard-working and disciplined and I am sure they will play an important role in bringing (SEA) Games golds to Singapore."

All credit their parents for their booming cricketing careers. "Dad and mum (Choo Yoke May, 60) chauffeur us to all our games in Singapore and never miss our matches," said Anish. "Mum washes our clothes and keeps two sets ready for each of us every day. She also serves as our nutritionist. She never scolds us when we break things at home playing cricket."

Diviya said her mother never stopped her from playing cricket: "She let me grow as a player and allowed me to play wherever I wanted. Without her support I will not be where I am now." santosh@sph.com.sg