Cricket Hong Kong

Alvin Sallay

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 May, 2009, 12:00am

You cough these days and people look at you as if you are a pariah and cover their face. You sneeze and no one offers a 'bless you', instead they cast a horrid look your way. It's depressing.

Our inability to handle nature's frequent challenges as compassionately as possible was eroding my faith until about 10 days ago, when a call from out of the blue renewed hope.

The sweet voice on the other end asked: 'Is this Alvin Sallay?' I said, 'Yes'. 'Hold on, the chairman is on the line.' And she patched me through to the big man himself.

You're kidding, I thought as tycoon X came on line and said he wanted to donate HK$200,000 to the Hong Kong Cricket Association towards the organisation of the Sixes.

So jaded have I become with the lack of investment in sport that I was sure someone was pulling my leg.

A few days before, I had written in this column that the decision taken by the HKCA to go ahead with the Sixes, despite not having found a title sponsor, was the right one.

My view seemed to have struck a chord with this Good Samaritan, who also agreed that the government should be looking at helping major sports events like the Sixes to help raise the profile of Hong Kong internationally.

This benefactor is a captain of industry. He has no connections with cricket. There was no hidden agenda for him to write a cheque for HK$200,000. But he felt it was the right thing to do, especially at a time like this when Hong Kong needed some good news.

He wanted to know how the money could be sent to the HKCA. I called its treasurer, Dinesh Tandon, who after pinching himself gave me details on how the payment could me made. I passed this on to my new friend.

Two days later, I got a call from Tandon saying the HKCA office at Olympic House had received a cheque for HK$200,000. He still couldn't believe it.

'This is absolutely the first time we have got a donation like this,' Tandon gushed. 'This is the first concrete income for the Sixes this year. It is amazing.'

The HKCA knows who the benefactor is, after all his name was on the cheque. But our lips remain sealed.

This story, however, had to be told. It reminded me that deep inside all of us is the innate feeling to do good. When it matters, Hong Kong people come through. Just look at how they gave generously to aid victims of the Asian tsunami and the Sichuan earthquake.

But this is a first for a sporting event. Although there was no air of tragedy surrounding the Sixes - it is, after all, a commercial exercise that brings in funds for cricket (not last year though) - the fact it can also help boost Hong Kong's image was enough to get one person to dip into his pockets.

You don't need money to make a difference. A smile, a thank you, a simple 'bless you', can all go a long way towards making this world a better place.

I raised this issue simply because the HKCA is facing a potentially fractious few days in the run-up to Friday's annual general meeting where the incumbent hierarchy - president Terry Smith and chairman Darren Tucker - are facing an unprecedented challenge from the Independents' clubs.

Pakistan Association's Shahzada Saleem is running against Smith for the presidency, while Little Sai Wan's Sohail Murshed is challenging Tucker's post as chairman. It is all part and parcel of the game's democratic ideals, which are very much alive in Hong Kong.

But this battle is also being perceived as 'us against them' in some quarters. On one side you have the establishment - the Hong Kong Cricket Club-backed (and to some extent the Kowloon Cricket Club) Smith and Tucker - while on the other are the candidates supported by the two main independent clubs.

Or to make matters worse, some might view this challenge as a fight between the subcontinent (Saleem is Pakistani and Murshed from Bangladesh, although both are long-time residents in this city) and the Anglo-Saxon world (Smith is English and Tucker Australian and they, too, have been in town for a long time).

Already world cricket is deeply divided. You have two camps, with Asia spearheaded by India on one side and the rest of the world on the other. Hong Kong cannot afford to go down that path.

But it seems this is one of the gripes of the challengers, who say there is a 'growing divide' in the game. In their bid statement, Saleem and Murshed point out that 'there appears to be a lack of communication between different sides'. No prizes for guessing what these sides are.

Over the years, there has been a gradual shift in the demographics of players. Traditionally, we have had mostly players of English and Australian origin. Today, it is the subcontinent that dominates. Just look at the senior side, which is largely made up of players of Pakistani origin.

What everyone should try to remember is we all live in Hong Kong and this is our home. We must all pull together. There is no time and place for divisive politics.

A democratic election on Friday is good for the game. Let everyone concerned take part in the right spirit. Our Good Samaritan has shown us how to play the game - with generosity and willingness to lend a helping hand.