HK should help spread joy of six
If, as they say, imitation is the best form of flattery, then the Hong Kong Cricket Association must be pretty chuffed that Cricket South Africa is keen to run a tournament on the lines of the Hong Kong Sixes next year in Sun City. It could be the start of something new, especially if South African officials can convince the International Cricket Council a world circuit is a possibility, something which Jacques Faul, chief executive of North-West Cricket and a member of Cricket South Africa (CSA), believes can be done even though it seems a long shot at first glance.
Faul, who along with CSA chief executive Gerald Majola was an interested spectator at the Kowloon Cricket Club last weekend, was highly taken with the organisation and smooth running of the Sixes. They had come on a look-and-learn mission and were so impressed Faul tossed up a googly by mentioning a world circuit.
If that is to materialise it would be massive, not only for Hong Kong where the Sixes has been honed into a spectacle, but also for all the developing countries - like China - where the game is still new and alien.
Short and sweet, this version of the game might be just what the doctor ordered if you are thinking about the Holy Grail of sport - the Olympics. Sixes is the ideal vehicle to develop and promote the game in places like the mainland and the United States, says Faul, who added optimistically: 'And who knows, one day we might even be able to have it in the Olympics, like rugby sevens.'
One thing in the game's favour is a 12-team sixes tournament can be held over three days - as Hong Kong proved for the first time last weekend - and that time frame and number are a combination the International Olympic Committee would love. All team sports are limited to 12 at the Olympics, including rugby sevens when its makes its debut at the 2016 Rio Games. And like rugby sevens, which can be completed in two or three days and be played at one venue, the same is true of cricket sixes.
IOC president Jacques Rogge took many by surprise earlier this year when he said he would like to see cricket at the Olympics. The IOC would love to have cricket in the Olympic family, simply because of the revenue the sport can earn for the rings.
Cricket, in its shorter version, is one of the most lucrative television sports in the world. The Twenty20 format is a money-spinner for the Board of Control for Cricket in India, whose Indian Premier League has signed a deal with Sony Television and Singapore-based World Sports Group for a massive US$1.94 billion. This is a 10-year deal and the event just recently concluded its fourth season.
Faul and Majola are quick to recognise a good thing, hence their visit to the Hong Kong Sixes. The plan is for South Africa to run its own sixes tournament starting next year, featuring its six domestic professional teams, including the Cape Cobras who recently figured in the Twenty20 Champions League. The plan is also to invite two overseas teams.
But Faul believes an ICC-backed worldwide sixes circuit would be the way to go. 'We need the ICC to be involved,' he said. Without the backing and support of the ICC, any plan for such a series in an already crowded calendar is bound to fail. The ICC must be able to recognise that if cricket is ever to get into the Olympics it won't be test or one-day cricket. Even Twenty20 might struggle as it would take too long and have too many numbers - both turn-offs for the IOC. Hong Kong must look at this idea closely and, if feasible, drive the proposal forward. For starters a world series with stops in Hong Kong, South Africa, Singapore and Dubai won't be a hard thing to do. A few years ago, soon after the highly successful 2007 Hong Kong Sixes, the promoter of the event, Harsh Sabale, suggested Hong Kong should become part of a circuit. At the time, local officials were a bit nervous and didn't come on board, saying they preferred to be alone.
Now this same idea has cropped up again. Perhaps it is time to take a fresh and more open look. In today's global world, you cannot afford to be inward-looking. You have to be out there, rubbing shoulders with the rest. Hong Kong rugby had this same problem more than a decade ago when the International Rugby Board created the world sevens series. The Hong Kong Sevens had no option but to join it. They knew if they maintained an aloof position the event that gave the format such a boost would soon be overtaken. Today, the Hong Kong Sevens is stronger than ever, so strong that HSBC, the title sponsor of the world series, has returned to put its name to the local event.
With that example in mind, the Hong Kong Sixes should have no fear about adapting to the times.