HK's hopes of hosting world event rest on high quality of grass wicket
Hong Kong 'has a very good chance' of hosting the ICC World Cricket League Division Three tournament said International Cricket Council global development manager Matthew Kennedy.
However, the final approval to host the six-nation tournament in either December or January will ultimately depend on the government getting its act together to maintain the turf wicket at the Mission Road grounds in Kowloon City.
'Matthew met officials from the LCSD [Leisure and Cultural Services Department] and explained to them the importance of maintaining the turf wicket at Mission Road,' said Danny Lai, Hong Kong Cricket Association general manager, yesterday,
'It all now depends on whether the LCSD will maintain the wicket. We [HKCA] have offered to help them by providing our own groundsmen,' Lai said.
Kennedy inspected the three venues in Hong Kong that boast a turf wicket - a must for an international tournament - on Monday and his verdict was a thumbs-up.
'Hong Kong has some fantastic cricket facilities and with the turf wickets at Mission Road, Hong Kong can certainly host a global event,' Kennedy said. 'On top of that, they have skilled and passionate volunteers, and good administrators who can pull it together.
'We are now seriously looking at the possibility of playing the ICC WCL Division Three event in Hong Kong - something we would like to do sooner rather than later.
'Our strategic plan is to develop the game in China. And with its new cricket stadium in Guangzhou [built for the Asian Games], we could even play some matches there. Hong Kong has a very good chance of hosting the World Cricket League.'
Yet much to the frustration of the HKCA, no work has been done on the turf pitches laid at Mission Road last August. 'ICC requirements call for a new turf wicket to be tested at least three months prior to a tournament. If we can start work on maintenance right now, we can use the wicket in September and just meet the ICC ruling in time to host the World Cricket League,' Lai said.
'But we are running out of time. The LCSD have dragged their feet and delayed for a year. They don't realise that a turf wicket needs maintaining. They just put the blocks of grass in and thought that was it.
'They have admitted that they have no expertise. General ground maintenance and preparing a turf wicket are two different things. We can't go in and prepare the wickets ourselves because we need the permission of the LCSD. We offered to help them and teach their workers, but so far there has been no progress,' Lai said.
The maintenance of a turf wicket is an art. Both the Hong Kong Cricket Club and Kowloon Cricket Club have to employ specialists in the trade to maintain their pitches.
Kennedy also said the small boundaries at both HKCC and KCC would not be an impediment to hosting the tournament, which is part of a comprehensive qualifying pathway to the 2015 World Cup. The tournament will comprise six teams from Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Denmark, Oman and two other sides yet to be decided.
'There are set boundary sizes for one-day internationals, Twenty20 internationals and test cricket of course,' Kennedy said.
'But the World Cricket League does not have any set sizes. There are a couple of unique boundary lines at Hong Kong Cricket Club and Kowloon, but in terms of across the board, it is fair for everybody.'