Middlesex want Hong Kong’s Anshuman Rath but visa hitch may affect his English County chances
The batting all-rounder is ineligible for a UK sporting visa because Hong Kong is only an associate ICC member
Middlesex want him and Anshuman Rath wants desperately to play for them but the Hong Kong player’s English County Cricket hopes have hit a visa snag.
The 19-year-old batting all-rounder has had an outstanding season with the Middlesex second XI and the county side are keen to sign him up as a full professional. However, United Kingdom visa rules are holding him back.
Rath is unable to convert his four-year student visa into residency and the club is prevented from recruiting him on a “sports person” visa because of Hong Kong’s status as a second-tier associate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC).
“I think Middlesex have been brilliant,” said Rath. “After all that has happened, it would have been easy for them to say ‘thank you very much, there’s nothing we can do’, but the fact is they are going out of their way to help me and they didn’t have to.
“It makes me want to play for them even more. They’ve been very supportive.”
Rath has a chance to become one of only a handful of Hong Kong players to play in the English County Championship after ex-Sussex and Warwickshire player Dermot Reeve – who went on to play for England – and Simon Myles, who had a brief spell with Sussex in the mid-80s.
He has been studying in Britain for the past four years and this year turned out of the Middlesex second team, scoring 123 in a match against Kent in April.
Before that, Rath starred for the Galaxy Gladiators Lantau in March’s Hong Kong T20 Blitz, where he caught the eye of teammate Kumar Sangakkara, of Sri Lanka.
He was also outstanding with the bat in Hong Kong’s ICC World Cricket League one-day matches against Netherlands in February.
Middlesex’s managing director of cricket Angus Fraser, a former England international, has asked the England Cricket Board (ECB) to ease the visa rules so that players such as Rath and others who may be affected by Britain leaving the European Union can compete in county cricket.
While Rath waits for news, he will stay in Hong Kong and prepare for important World Cricket League and four-day Intercontinental Cup matches towards the end of the year.
“It did hit me hard when I heard about the visa problems,” said Rath. “But I’m trying to stay positive. There are options; I might try to play in [T20] franchises and Hong Kong has a busy season coming up.
“I’ll let ECB take their time. England is my priority but I’ll be patient, it’s not the worst thing in the world playing for Hong Kong.
“We have some important games I want to focus on.”
Hong Kong coach Simon Cook is in touch with Middlesex and looking for ways to assist Rath.
“We are just trying to support him in the best way we can until he gets a ruling from ECB,” said Cook. “I am in contact with Middlesex who have been very supportive and are still keen to see Anshuman playing for them.
“Anshie is now back training with the Hong Kong team in preparation for the WCL and I-Cup games which gives him a focus for the next few months.”