Future of Hong Kong cricket – Chinese players, women and the World Cup
Senior players Babar Hayat and Nizakat Khan outline what they feel are the key components in a crucial year for the sport in the city
As professional cricketers, Hong Kong captain Babar Hayat and key batsman Nizakat Khan believe their duties go beyond performing on the field. The pair also want to play a part in raising the profile of the sport in Hong Kong, particularly in helping local Chinese and women’s players fulfil their dreams.
Babar and Nizakat are among the 16 contracted players in a group of 54 who include national and development cricketers. And at a team meeting in Causeway Bay on Saturday, they spoke about their hopes for cricket in the city.
“We are professionals and we are watching the developing teams with interest,” said Nizakat. “We want the Chinese players to come forward and one day play for the senior team.
“With women as well, it would be great to one day see them becoming Hong Kong Sports Institute athletes [like us].
“We see the women’s rugby players at various age groups there and hope one day that our cricket women will also get that chance.”
Explosive batsman Babar can often be seen going to Mission Road or other venues to watch the all-Chinese Hong Kong Dragons or women’s teams play.
“I have been watching games of the women’s and Dragons. And I can say that the standards are improving. The Chinese players have really come up and the day is not far when they will play in the national squad.”
Li Kai-ming is the only Chinese player so far in the national squad while the development squad features Siegfried Wai and Jason Li.
The Hong Kong women’s squad, however, is mostly filled with Chinese players or those born and bred in the city.
The men’s team are looking forward to four crucial matches towards the end of the year with Nizakat going as far as linking them to the future of Hong Kong cricket.
The team will play two matches each against Nepal and Papua New Guinea in ICC World Cricket League Championship one-day matches. Third-placed Hong Kong need to finish in the top four of the eight-team league to advance to the 2019 World Cup qualifiers.
They also face Afghanistan in an Intercontinental Cup four-day match, which offers a pathway to possible test cricket.
“In these four games, we are playing for the future of Hong Kong cricket,” said Nizakat. “We can’t take it easy. We are not pressuring ourselves as a team but we know how important these matches are.
“We have to take it game by game and show how good Hong Kong cricket is now.”
It is also an important year for the women’s team. In September they take part in the East Asia T20 Cup and in November embark on a tour of Sri Lanka in preparation for the Women’s T20 World Cup.
The men were beaten in two WCL matches against the Netherlands this year, despite scoring more than 300 in both games.
“The guys are working hard and we know that we need to improve from our last two games if we want to win the next four,” said Babar.