New cricket franchises City Kai Tak and HKI United set to beef up expanded Hong Kong T20 Blitz
Owners keen to raise the standard of the game here and bring in quality overseas players for the March tournament
City Kai Tak and HKI United will be the new franchises at next year’s expanded Hong Kong T20 Blitz, with both teams promising to bring exciting cricket to the tournament with a mix of foreign and local players.
City Kai Tak are the expansion team as the Blitz goes from four to five franchises, while HKI United take over from Woodworm Warriors and are owned by a husband and wife team who have an interest in Pakistan Super League champions Islamabad United.
The two outfits will join Kowloon Cantons, Hung Hom JD Jaguars and Galaxy Gladiators Lantau (formerly Lantau Galaxy Riders) when they compete in the March tournament over five days.
The group that owns City Kai Tak sponsored Kowloon Cantons in the inaugural edition and has decided to form its own team upon learning a new franchise would be up for grabs.
“Being a sponsor, we took a back seat and our interest was just financial,” said Alok Jain, one of five owners of City Kai Tak. “Being cricket enthusiasts we want to take a front seat and when a new franchise became available we decided to get a team ourselves.
“Our primary focus is to raise the standard of the game and up the ante. Last year it was quite nice but some teams had a relatively sedentary approach and we want to bring in more excitement and bring in more players.
“This year, the quota for overseas players is up to five and we would like to use the entire quota. We want to bring in one or two marquee players and other high-performance but relatively newer players.”
For the second Blitz, the cost of a franchise has risen to HK$125,000 from HK$50,000. Governing body Cricket Hong Kong said the money would be used to help with the running of the tournament.
This year former Australia captain Michael Clarke was the star attraction, playing for the Cantons, but fans only had a brief glimpse of his batting as rain washed out most of the three-day’s play.
Amna Naqvi, owner of HKI United, said she and her husband, Ali, were cricket lovers who wanted to contribute to the local scene having lived in Hong Kong for 13 years.
“We are great fans of cricket and decided to support a Pakistan Super League team, and having lived in Hong Kong for 13 years, Hong Kong is also our home so we thought it would be great to support cricket here as well.
“Cricket has a history in Hong Kong and it is a much smaller tournament here so we thought it made complete sense for us, being here, to support cricket in Hong Kong,” said Naqvi.
Cricket Hong Kong is hoping that teams will be better prepared for the second event given the fact that they would have had more time to identify playing talent and organise their squads.