Blitz is back – fifth franchise for Hong Kong T20 spectacle, change of dates and possibly Michael Clarke again
Organisers hope for a bigger and better tournament next year with an expanded line-up, more overseas players and clear weather
Organisers of the Hong Kong T20 Blitz are hoping for a bigger and better tournament next year with a fifth franchise, change of dates and more overseas players expected to compete.
Despite bad weather nearly washing out May’s inaugural tournament at Mission Road, the Hong Kong Cricket Association is encouraged by the positive response from the four franchises and star overseas recruit Michael Clarke – the former Australia captain who is keen to return in 2017.
“We’ve spoken with the four teams from last time and taken their feedback about the tournament and conducted a thorough review of what went well and what to improve upon,” said Max Abbott, the HKCA’s marketing and commercial director.
“Out of that, we brought the tournament forward from May to March to counter the weather threat. We also have plans to bring in a fifth team and we’re finalising the models that will be used for teams to sign overseas players.
“We hope to increase the number of overseas players per team and I know that franchises are keen, after Clarke came last time, to sign marquee players. They see the success and impact someone of that stature has on this tournament.”
The inaugural tournament at the end of May was plagued by wet weather with almost all the matches affected. Clarke had just got into his stride with the bat for the Kowloon Cantons on the second day of the three-day event before the rains came down. There was no play on day three.
The HKCA is hoping that changing the dates to the second week of March would help the tournament sidestep any bad weather.
Apart from Cantons, the tournament featured Hung Hom JD Jaguars, Woodworm Warriors and GII Lantau Galaxy Riders. All four teams are expected to take part next year, alongside a fifth franchise.
Abbott said an auction for the new franchise would take place next month or in September with the player draft scheduled for December.
He said sponsor DTC Mobile was keen to continue their involvement as well.
“Basically, we’re looking to build upon what was started last year and take it up a level,” said Abbott. “Everyone at the HKCA is excited at the potential of the tournament and what it can do for cricket in Hong Kong.
“We’ve had positive discussions with DTC Mobile and they are keen to be involved again. Once we have the tournament structure finalised we can complete arrangements with them.
“There is a lot of interest from private entities and businesses about securing the fifth team on offer, both from Hong Kong and overseas and we’re looking forward to seeing, once we open that up, who places a bid and the level of interest we can get.”
He said entities from Singapore, the Caribbean, Australia and Hong Kong have expressed interest in owning a franchise for the tournament.
The proposed March dates exploits a short window in the international Twenty20 schedule, following on from the Pakistan Super League in United Arab Emirates and before the start of the Indian Premier League – the world’s biggest T20 competition.
It is also prior to the English county season and at the tail end of the Australian domestic competition.
“There are no T20 tournaments going on at that time,” said Abbott. “So, it’s potentially open for players from a lot more different countries.”
Abbott was also confident that the second Hong Kong T20 Blitz would be a major improvement on the inaugural event.
“This year, the tournament was put together inside two months,” he said. “And now, with nine months planning, we are confident the teams will be able to have more time to acquire players and sponsors.”