Cricket pioneer Danny Lai sets sights on Taiwan
Danny Lai is impressed by sports culture in schools and government
The man largely responsible for cricket finding a foothold on the mainland has now set his sights on another frontier - Taiwan. Danny Lai is hoping the game can provide a common ground for cross-straits diplomacy.
Lai, the general manager of the Hong Kong Cricket Association for the past three years, spent his last day in office at Olympic House in So Kon Po on Friday.
"I went to Kaohsiung for a short visit [in March] and I was very impressed by the sports culture in the schools and the government and I accepted their offer to be a consultant to develop the game," Lai said.
During two separate tenures with the Hong Kong Cricket Association, Lai has been left frustrated, at times, by the government's approach to the game, and feels there are more opportunities when you start from ground zero.
"The Chinese Taipei Cricket Association has appointed me mainly to set up the basic structure for Taiwan, and to be the main link with the ACC [Asian Cricket Council] and the ICC," Lai said. "My other role will be to set up the national teams for both men and women, put in place a development programme, arrange a league structure, set up an umpires and scorers society. Many things can be accomplished faster when you start from zero."
Problems Lai faced in Hong Kong which he won't confront in Taiwan are availability of land and government interest. "There are plenty of baseball fields that can be converted. "There is a huge potential for cricket in Taiwan because of its strong baseball culture in schools, which means bat and ball are not strange to most students. I also believe there is strong government support."
But to get government support, Lai's priority will be to see the game takes root across all 22 counties. The Chinese Taipei Cricket Association has to become a member of the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee if it is to get government help and to do this they need consent from all 22 counties or cities across Taiwan. "In other words we have to develop cricket nationwide from scratch," Lai said.
"Taiwan is like Hong Kong 100 years ago when the game was played by a few clubs. Today there are about 10 social teams, mostly expats from Pakistan, India, Australia and Britain, who play amongst themselves.
"I want to see cricket flourish in the Chinese countries. I was involved in developing the game in China from the outset and now I have a chance to shape Taiwan's future. Together with my Hong Kong background, I feel very excited and hopeful that one day I can bring all three regions together to play cricket in China or Taiwan. I hope one day there will be more interaction between China and Taiwan through cricket and that the game will bring about more understanding between the people on both sides of the strait."