Lack of top-class cricket stadium takes shine off Hong Kong's Super Sixes feat
HK squad proved themselves on the global arena, but their raised status is meaningless without proper facilities to host international matches
Hong Kong's entry into the Super Sixes at the ICC World Cup qualifiers in New Zealand has brought bittersweet issues to the fore for the local game.
Even though officials can celebrate the fact that the national team have won further international recognition and probably ODI (one-day international) status, it has also raised concerns about the lack of a top-quality ground to host future international games.
"By virtue of finishing in the top six at the World Cup qualifiers, Hong Kong is de facto ranked in the top eight of the ICC associates and that means we will be in the World Cricket League Championship.
"This requires us to play the other seven members home and away over a two-year period at the four-day game plus the one-day and Twenty20 format. But do we have a ground to host them?," asked Mike Walsh, the Hong Kong Cricket Association chairman.
Hong Kong, Scotland and United Arab Emirates finished in the top three in pool A. They will join Papua New Guinea, Namibia and Kenya in the Super Sixes starting on Sunday.
Two teams will join fellow associate members Afghanistan and Ireland at the 2015 World Cup. But whether Hong Kong progress or not, they will still have achieved a memorable feat by entering the top group of associates, who are one step below test-playing nation.
"It is a huge achievement and well done to the team. But now what? We don't have a ground capable of hosting a four-day World Cricket League Championship game or for that matter a one-day international against the other seven teams," Walsh said.
Hong Kong's only ground of international-sized standard is the Mission Road pitch at Tin Kwong Road, but Walsh said: "It lacks the infrastructure and other support facilities to host matches of this nature".
In 2001, then chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen promised local cricket a top-class facility. This pledge was made during the ICC annual conference, but nothing has come out of that.
"How do we fulfil our commitments on the international stage without a proper international-class ground or stadium, which only the government can provide? Where is the ground we were promised in 2001?," asked Walsh.
A top government official said there were plans in the pipeline to provide cricket with an international-sized ground and facilities. "We are looking at a site in Kwai Chung," said Jonathan McKinley, deputy secretary for Home Affairs.
But time will be of the essence, according to HKCA officials, with the effects of Hong Kong's elevation into the top ranks of world cricket kicking in after next year's World Cup.
The feats of Jamie Atkinson and his men will also lead to increased financial support from the ICC. In the past four-year cycle, WCL championship countries received annual funding of US$350,000.