Why this weekend's T20 Blitz tournament will be the 'best cricket ever seen' in Hong Kong
HKCA chief says this weekend’s tournament has generated enormous interest with tickets almost sold out with the likes of former Australia captain Michael Clarke in action
Hong Kong fans will treat themselves to some of the “best cricket ever played” in the city at this weekend’s DTC Mobile T20 Blitz at Mission Road.
The Hong Kong Cricket Association chief executive Tim Cutler said tickets for the three-day tournament are almost sold out, with fans eager to see former Australia captain Michael Clarke and other players compete in a franchise-based team competition for the first time in Hong Kong.
Only two months after the event was announced, Cutler said it had created a buzz among the Hong Kong cricket community with fans lured by world-class talent and local players keen to be part of the action.
“For the majority of Hong Kong players, there is the chance to gain exposure to the likes of Michael Clarke with the potential for people around the world to see the best of what they can offer,” said Cutler, a former grade cricketer in Australia who will turn out for the Kowloon Cantons at the Blitz.
“Barring the Hong Kong-Scotland series, this will be the best cricket most people will see on Hong Kong soil. It just provides another aspirational target for all kids playing in Hong Kong.
“The top local players are already bolstering their training. We wouldn’t have thought it would be like this two months ago.”
Around 1,200 tickets were made available for each day on Saturday and Sunday and Cutler said only a few VIP and general admission passes remain.
This year, the HKCA vowed to make 2016 a breakthrough year for cricket in terms of tournaments and performance. In January, Hong Kong hosted Scotland in the Braidwood Cup, but bad weather washed out most of the play.
The association is also hopeful that the popular Cricket Sixes, which hasn’t been played since 2012 can be revived with financial help from the government’s Mega Events Fund.
Cutler and Clarke will be teammates at Cantons along with 16-year-old Nepali spinner Sandeep Lamichhane. The other teams are Woodworm Island Warriors, featuring two Australian recruits, GII Lantau Galaxy Riders and Hung Hom JD Jaguars.
Cutler played for Eastern Suburbs in Sydney for a long spell and will be wearing many hats during the weekend, focusing on his performance for Cantons and the smooth running of the tournament.
He joined the HKCA in May last year and, along with his team has helped to boost the profile of cricket in Hong Kong. Last year, the ICC approved Mission Road as an official one-day venue for associate members.
The Blitz itself took only two months to organise and in that time the event has been given the green light by world governing body ICC and earned worldwide recognition.
“Hopefully, the weather plays its part,” said Cutler. “We are confident that we have done everything that we could have done to make it a success.
“We’re really happy with what’s been great support from the corporate sector and the ICC. I really think it is growing nicely and giving Hong Kong an identity at the back end of the season.”
Jaguars face a race against time to be ready
The Hung Hom JD Jaguars are looking for new overseas recruits with days left before this weekend’s Hong Kong T20 Blitz after their two Indian signings were barred from playing by the country’s governing body.
Jaguars owner Devang Shah had hoped to bring in talented Mumbai batsmen Vinit Indulkar and Doraiswamy Subramanian for the tournament but the BCCI has blocked the move.
“The BCCI policy is that no first-class players are allowed to play in any other T20 competition other than the Indian Premier League in order to preserve the sanctity of their players,” said Hong Kong Cricket Association chief executive Tim Cutler.
“We are now all working together to try to find quality replacement players.”
The Jaguars have already recruited Mohammed Naveed, from the United Arab Emirates, as their associate member player, and Cutler said they are looking at West Indies and Australia for cricketers to complete their squad.
On the radar is Guyanese all-rounder Jonathan Foo, who has Chinese descent and has turned out for the Hong Kong Dragons and the Independents in the city.
The 25-year-old Foo, a hard-hitting batsman and leg spinner, was one of the stars of the inaugural Caribbean T20 in 2010 – hitting a 17-ball 42 as Guyana beat Barbados in the final.
The Jaguars open the tournament at 3pm on Friday against GII Lantau Galaxy Rider in the only game of the first day.
They face Kowloon Cantons on Saturday before wrapping up their round-robin fixtures against Woodworm Island Warriors on Sunday.
The top two teams after a single round-robin meet in Sunday’s final.