Teen leads from the front
Hong Kong's 'unexpected' loss at the Youth Asia Cup has not dampened the confidence of up-and-coming talent Jignesh Tailor who wants to put the SAR back on the world cricket map. The 16-year-old Island School student has been selected to lead the Hong Kong under-19 squad at the Southeast Asian Cricket Championship.
The tournament will be held in Hong Kong next April, with Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand trying to stop the hosts from winning the championship for the fourth time.
Hong Kong's third spot at last year's Asia Cup shattered their dream of taking part in the under-19 Youth World Cup in South Africa. But Jignesh has shrugged off the setback.
He believes Hong Kong has every chance of clinching the championship again because the local under-19 cricket scene is so strong.
'To show the world that we're the best, we need to practise very hard to improve our skills. That's the only way to achieve our goal,' he said.
Jignesh, who bowls leg-spin, made his captaincy debut with the under-15s and soon realised the importance of proper training.
He attends net practice and other training sessions at Kowloon Cricket Club, but will step up his efforts as the tournament approaches. Gym work and long-distance running have also helped enhance his fitness.
His five-year active involvement in cricket has brought fruitful results and he has played in several international tournaments.
He received the 1997 Hong Kong Cricket Association Young Dragon of the Year award and was picked to captain the under-15 team for the Tuanku Ja'afar Cup in Singapore last year. He was the youngest player in the Hong Kong national team at this year's Asian Cricket Council Trophy in Nepal.
He partly attributes his outstanding performance to his parents' support and friend Alex French, who introduced him to coach Lal Jayasinghe.
'There's still a lot for me to learn in cricket and become a good captain. I need much time to work with my coach to learn more about captaincy and hope my ability can help the team become successful,' he said.
In his spare time Jignesh, who hopes to study medicine, is involved in his studies as well as drama and debating activities.
'I don't think it (my career) will make me totally switch off the cricket because I can still play with my students or get into a university team. Whenever the association needs me, I'll come back to represent Hong Kong.' His tip for beginners? 'Just enjoy it'.
Jignesh believes that thanks to the efforts of the Hong Kong Cricket Association, the game is becoming more popular among youngsters, including local Chinese.
'Cricket is not a complicated game. It requires strategy and tactics and is a really good hobby. It is a lot of fun for players as well as spectators,' he said.