Students bowled over by 'idol' Jacob Oram
A group of Indian students were all smiles when they met one of their idols - former Black Cap Jacob Oram - during a visit to Palmerston North.
The students, from Bangalore-based international boarding school Sarala Birla Academy, are touring the region for four days as part of a push to garner more attention in the region's education sector from international students.
Oram, who played 33 test matches and 160 one day internationals for the New Zealand cricket team, took the group through a training session at Palmerston North Boys' High School on Tuesday.
After the session the students hit the field to face a Palmerston North Boys' High School team in a Twenty20 match.
Boys' High may have won the cricket but Shresth Dokania, 12, said he was thrilled to meet Oram.
"It was a very great experience meeting him. He explained ways to bat and stuff like that."
Oram said it was nice to see the students being excited to train.
"Today's about enjoyment really. These guys aren't here for a cricket tour, they're here for the cultural experience and education experience," he said.
"We think rugby is big in New Zealand, it's a whole other level when talking cricket in India."
The students, aged 10 to 15, were in Palmerston North as part of a joint effort organised by Palmerston North's TakeMe2NewZealand and the New Delhi-based Ourania Education Network. The initiative aims to increase the number of international students studying in the region.
Nats Subramanian, from TakeMe2NewZealand, said the trip was not just about entertainment.
"This tour is a chance to show visiting students what the lifestyle and people of New Zealand and Manawatu is really like. Cricket is a key touchstone of both New Zealand and Indian cultures, so to have this opportunity for us to highlight one of our shared pastimes is fantastic.
"Jacob is not only an international player representing New Zealand but also played in the IPL, it's a big thing in India. The whole billion population of India know Jacob Oram . . . he's a big brand."
Destination Manawatu chief executive Lance Bickford said international education was becoming an increasingly vital focus area for secondary and tertiary institutes.
"These trips themselves are not study trips but hopefully they go back and tell their friends about their experience.
"International students pay up to $40,000 a year in fees. The good thing is they also spend up to $40,000 in the community on top of that. It's a really important stream of revenue."
Bickford said the goal was to double Manawatu's international student numbers within 10 years. This trip was the first of its kind, and Bickford said they were hoping to get between six and 10 a year.
- Manawatu Standard