China cricket can take Afghanistan’s example, says MCC boss Mike Gatting
Former England captain says the Afghans became a test nation within 20 years as ICC meet to formulate mainland development strategy
Former England captain Mike Gatting is hoping China can follow the example of Afghanistan in becoming a force in world cricket in just two decades.
Gatting, in Hong Kong with the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) touring team, said the rise of Afghanistan cricket to test status should serve as an example for what can be done.
World governing body ICC is to meet this month to formulate a strategy to grow cricket in China, which includes lobbying for the sport to be included in the Olympic Games programme.
“The MCC can help only in so many ways,” said Gatting, who is MCC chairman. “The ICC is the main protagonist in this. They’ve got the money and they have got the brief to promote cricket around the world.
“We supported Afghan cricket and really started to push it forward. We gave them money initially and as the game grew in Afghanistan, the ICC took over and really help give them the support and extra money to become what is now an international team.
“And all this in the space of 15 to 20 years. China is in a different part of the world, there are a lot more people [than Afghanistan] and hopefully that means a lot more people to take up our great game.”
Afghanistan was this year accepted by the ICC, along with Ireland, as a test nation – a remarkable achievement for a country that is still mired in strife and turmoil after the US invasion more than 15 years ago.
However, one of the factors that favoured the growth of the sport in Afghanistan is that the country already enjoyed a strong cricket culture, something that is lacking in China.
Gatting believes that Olympic recognition will help change that.
“One of the things we need to happen is getting cricket into the Olympics, and then I’m sure the Chinese government will help to support the game and give some instructions to schools to help it grow,” said Gatting.
“Without kids, starting from up to eight or nine years old, you can’t really do a huge amount. There there is the infrastructure. China is a big country and it would take some organising.
“Most countries around the world are saying let’s get cricket into the Olympics. We are the second biggest sport in the world and we are not in the Olympics, which is strange when lots of other sports are.
“We have a product in T20 that will be good viewing for people and which can help spread the game into other regions, were the International Olympic Committee will also support with money. That is what is needed and then the structure follows.”
Gatting, who is a patron of the Hong Kong Cricket Club, will be in Hong Kong for the last day of the Hong Kong Sixes and hopes his MCC are able to make it to the final.
He said the MCC will send a young side to the Hong Kong Sixes, to be held at the Kowloon Cricket Club from October 28-29.