Stars of Hong Kong T20 Blitz ready to take cricket in Asia to the next level
West Indies’ World Cup-winning captain Darren Sammy among overseas and local stars who have high hopes for the fledging tournament
The first ball of the 2017 DTC Hong Kong T20 Blitz is set to be delivered on Wednesday morning after a hectic few months in which the five franchises have scrambled to put together squads featuring top overseas and local players.
But while winning is priority for all teams, the mood at Tuesday’s pre-tournament media day was more about what the event can do for cricket in Hong Kong and the region rather than who are favourites to win.
West Indies’ World Cup-winning captain Darren Sammy, fresh from leading Peshawar Zalmi to victory in the Pakistan Super League, said he was ready to help the Blitz become an established part of the global T20 calendar.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Sammy. “The tournament has attracted several good international players so the interest is there. If we can come out and bring a brand of cricket that entertains fans, as well as help develop some young players, then it is a win-win for everyone.
“I’ve been to Hong Kong before for the Sixes and I thought it would be a good opportunity to showcase my talents and bring some experiences to the Jaguars as a leader and an all-rounder.
“It’s a chance to rub shoulders with the Hong Kong players and pass on some of my experience.”
Sammy’s side, who also feature overseas players Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Naveed, New Zealand’s James Franklin and South African Johan Botha, open the tournament on Wednesday against Galaxy Gladiators Lantau, who boast Sri Lankans Kumar Sangakkara and Seekkuge Prasanna, Kiwi Jesse Ryder, Sohail Tanvir and Assad Vala.
“Just by the names who have come to this tournament, it is fantastic for Hong Kong cricket and, as many people have said, it can only grow,” said Gladiators’ Hong Kong player Anshuman Rath, who had strong performances with the bat in a recent series against Netherlands.
“A lot of people are talking about it [the Blitz] and word is getting around. When you have players such as Darren Sammy and Kumar Sangakkara playing in Hong Kong, you can’t really think of anything negative.”
The second match of the day sees new franchise City Kaitak take on Kowloon Cantons, who have had to hurriedly bring in replacement for Shahid Afridi and Tymal Mills (both injured) and Yusuf Pathan.
City Kaitak’s owner Alok Jain, who has brought in Tillakaratne Dislhan (Sri Lanka), Kyle Coetzer (Scotland), Nicholas Pooran and Rayad Emrit (both West Indies) and Chris Jordan (England), said his franchise was ready to play their part in helping the tournament grow.
“This is great for Hong Kong cricket,” he said. “Our captain is [Hong Kong player] Aizaz Khan, he’s 23 and will be leading some of the big names of world cricket. Our local players can go far.
“We have players from all over and the whole world is watching.”
Coetzer is familiar foe for Hong Kong cricketers thanks to numerous clashes between Scotland and Hong Kong at associate member level.
“It’s an honour to be involved with the Hong Kong Blitz,” said Coetzer. “It’s going to be a fantastic show. It has been well advertised around the world and certainly in Scotland people are talking about it.
“I saw the tournament last year and was keen to get involved this time. It’s good to see players from around the world coming here and the fact that there are opportunities to play cricket for players like us.”
Jaguars are first up again on Thursday against Hong Kong Island United, whose five overseas players are Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq, England’s Ian Bell, West Indian Samuel Badree, Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal and Scotland’s George Munsey.
Hong Kong captain Babar Hayat will lead the Cantons side featuring Ashar Zaidi (England), Wayne Smith and Marlon Samuels (both West Indies), Yasir Arafat (Pakistan) and Calum MacLoed (Scotland).
“It will be a great chance for me to learn from the overseas players,” said Hayat. “We have a good balance in our side and we hope to be very competitive.”
The top two teams after a single round robin will face each other in Sunday’s final at Tin Kwong Road in Mong Kok.