Four cricket pitches, 500 players: exciting times for Hong Kong, says batting coach Ryan Campbell
Former Australian international says the next generation of players in the city will provide a boost to the national squad
Hong Kong’s former Australian international Ryan Campbell has a message for those questioning the team’s performance at the ICC World Twenty20 in India – just you wait.
Campbell, the team’s batting coach and opener, has featured in two losses in group B – to Zimbabwe and Afghanistan – with his side looking distinctly second best in both matches in their failed attempt to reach the second round.
However, Campbell said after their six-wicket loss to Afghanistan that Hong Kong’s mere presence in the tournament is a significant achievement and with a healthy development programme, they will only become stronger.
“We know where we’re at, we are a very young squad, hence why I’m here,” said the 44-year-old Campbell, who was roped in to boost the squad a few weeks ago. “When you have a young squad, one day you will be outstanding and the next day maybe not so good.
“[But] whatever anyone says about Hong Kong cricket, the fact is we have four cricket grounds, around 500 players and 600-700 kids starting to play now. The numbers are going through the roof but four grounds is making it tough.
“We have an exciting group and if you guys [reporters] can see the 14, 15 and 16 year olds of the next generation that are coming, throw them into the batch with guys like Mark Chapman, who is suddenly 30, Jamie Atkinson and Anshuman Rath ... it’s exciting times.”
Hong Kong came into the tournament having failed to win a match at the ACC Cup last month, when they also lost to Afghanistan, with whom they have developed an intense rivalry. Hong Kong, in fact, beat the Afghans in a thriller last year at the World Cup qualifiers to earn their place in India.
Campbell, a former Australian one-day international player, said it was his role, and that of the coaching team, to bring consistency to the Hong Kong side, who face Scotland in their final group B match on Saturday.
“Our job is to get the young fellas, as professional players, to get their worst days and best days and find a happy medium and it’s probably not quite like that right now.
“Look at Babar Hayat, he was the Asia Cup leading scorer and here he failed twice. That’s the sort of thing you’re always dealing with and that’s the excitement of Hong Kong and working in the cricket industry.”
Hayat was out for a duck second ball against Afghanistan as Hong Kong put up a meagre total of 116, which their opponents overhauled with 12 balls remaining.
Campbell was one of the few batsman who was able to make runs, scoring 27, with Rath hitting 28 and Atkinson compiling 16.
He said Hong Kong’s status as a ODI Associate nation means more opportunities to play against overseas teams and therefore improve their skills.
“If you’re going to be a professional team you must play against professional teams,” he said. “We’ve only just got ODI status.
“Our club cricket is fine but it’s not going to make you a superstar. The only way to get better is to play against better players. I’m not saying Hong Kong should play Australia, but we must get more exposure.
“We can’t have a wonderful sport and then only eight or nine teams get to play it. The ICC is doing a fantastic job promoting cricket to all these countries.
“And we would love to play more, tour more and bring more teams to Hong Kong.”