Cricket: Former Singapore international Arjun Menon pitches in to help Malawi orphanage

Arjun Menon managed to raise funds to purchase 30 bed frames for the orphanage. PHOTO: COURTESY OF ARJUN MENON

SINGAPORE - Former national cricketer Arjun Menon's passion for the sport has taken him on a journey spanning four continents.

Now a certified Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Level 3 coach, he has had stints in Chile, Australia, India, Mozambique, Botswana, Indonesia and Singapore.

His latest stop is Malawi, where he has been the operations manager of Cricket Malawi since January last year.

And the 44-year-old has made his contributions felt beyond the cricket oval by pitching in to help the local community.

Earlier this year, he decided to tag along when a group of women in his social circle visited the Maoni Orphanage to donate some blankets and toys.

Once there, he got to witness the living conditions of the children's dormitories, which housed 47 children but had only five bunk beds. The spartan sleeping arrangements, which could fit only 10 children, left him ill at ease.

"On the drive back, I felt a bit uneasy at the prospect that I was now going home to my big king-size bed and all the comforts we take for granted while that night, about 37 children would be sleeping on thin mattresses on the floor," he told The Straits Times.

Tapping on what he describes as the "Patrician Spirit", the former St Patrick's School student made a heartfelt plea for donations on his Class of 93 group chat before going to bed that night.

In the morning, he woke to numerous messages and managed to raise funds to purchase 30 bed frames costing about $30 each and 50 mosquito nets, which are useful in combatting malaria, a serious problem in Malawi.

He added: "There were further donations of new mattresses, wash buckets, soaps, towels, heavy blankets, beddings and pillows from other donors... it was amazing to see how everything had come together and I could not help but be so thankful to the boys.

"I really wished they could have been there to see it."

Menon's globetrotting career began in 1992, when the then 14-year-old first caught the cricket bug while studying at St Patrick's. As one of about 20 boys selected to join the Singapore Cricket Association (SCA) development programme, he "really took to the sport and excelled especially as a wicketkeeper".

He went on to represent Singapore at the youth level and in 1996, earned his first senior cap for the national team against the United Arab Emirates in the ACC Trophy.

He went on to earn four more caps with the national team before completing his undergraduate studies in Perth, Australia, in 2004, where he moved into coaching.

Arjun Menon (standing, third from right) during his stint as national coach of Singapore U16s, posing with their medals after winning the 2010 Asian Cricket Council U16s Trophy in Nepal. PHOTO: COURTESY OF ARJUN MENON

A five-year stint with the SCA from 2015 to 2020 saw Menon working in various roles - including as game development manager - to nurture the nation's talents and help take Singapore cricket to greater heights. In 2020, Singapore rose to its best-ever position of 20th in the International Cricket Council rankings.

His crowning moment came in 2017, when he led the national cricket team to a T20 gold medal in the sport's debut at the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

He said: "It was one of the proudest moments in my life singing Majulah Singapura as I watched our nation's flag hoisted above the rest during the medal ceremony."

In January last year, the former wicketkeeper, who was previously head coach of the Botswana national team, took on the operations role at Cricket Malawi.

"I really enjoyed my time in Botswana and all the other African countries that I got to visit and it is also where I met my wife, Patience, from Zimbabwe, so even after returning home after all those years, that desire to come back to the continent of Africa was very strong," he said.

Arjun Menon spurring on the Botswana national team during a match against Norway in the 2011 ICC World Cricket League Division 7 tournament. PHOTO: COURTESY OF ARJUN MENON

While the Covid-19 pandemic almost put paid to those plans, he persevered and took the leap.

He said: "When Covid-19 had just hit Singapore's shores... I had just resigned and taken up the Malawi offer and I was actually quite jumpy about possibly being infected and not being able to travel to take up the post.

"I must say that even as I left for Malawi and landed there, I had this crazy idea running in my head that I could be the person to bring the virus into Malawi!"

Things have settled down in Malawi as vaccinations begin to roll out in the country and Menon remains committed to the cricket cause there after a year into his contract.

Arjun Menon conducting a cricket awareness course for journalists in Malawi on May 5, 2021. PHOTO: COURTESY OF ARJUN MENON

And he plans to continue helping the Maoni Orphanage.

He added: "After seeing how much of a difference this last (fundraiser) did to 47 children at the orphanage, I surely would like to look for other ways to raise funds in the future.

"Maybe next year I might reach out to the boys again about doing something similar and seeing where we can contribute to the same orphanage which does need investment in a few areas, especially because it also acts as a school."

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