How browsing Facebook could change the life of Hong Kong cricket’s newest recruit Kyle Christie

Perth-based bowler was surfing the net in Australia when he saw a recruitment call for Hong Kong-born players

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 October, 2016, 12:24pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 October, 2016, 11:09pm

Kyle Christie was browsing through Facebook when he stumbled upon a post by Cricket Hong Kong that caught his eye.

The governing body was looking for players born in Hong Kong and actively involved in the sport.

Christie, 23, felt qualified. Hong Kong-born, playing for Perth side Kalamunda, the fast bowler who can bat replied.

As it turned out, that Facebook post would change his life as within weeks Christie went from being a club cricketer to one poised to make his full one-day international debut.

He’s one of the success stories of a programme to scour the world for talent born in Hong Kong and willing to return to the city and contribute to the game.

Melbourne-raised Chloe Ip is another example, having represented Hong Kong’s women at the recent ICC World Cup Asia qualifiers in Hong Kong and the pair are among a dozen who have responded to Cricket Hong Kong’s call since May.

“I am now keen to have a positive impact on Hong Kong cricket and help them grow the game,” said Christie, whose father was in the Hong Kong police force for 20 years before the family left when he was five.

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“I saw the Facebook post and emailed [Cricket Hong Kong director of cricket] Charlie Burke and he invited me over for a week-long trial .

“Despite the poor weather, the trial went well and the squad really made me feel welcome. It hasn’t really sunk in yet that I could possibly make my ODI debut. But as the time gets closer in sure I will get very excited and nervous.

“I have a great support base back in Perth which it makes it so much easier.”

The idea of finding Hong Kong-born talent came about after another Australian who plays for the senior side, Chris Carter, was unveiled last year.

“Chris came back to Hong Kong and he just turned up and started playing club cricket,” said Burke.

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“He mentioned that he was born in Hong Kong and that is one of the eligibilities to be able to play for a certain country. It just got us thinking and wondering who else is out there. It’s not only about players, we’re on the lookout for coaches, umpires, volunteers and administration.

“So we’re casting the net wide with social media.”

Carter and Christie are in the Hong Kong side to host Papua New Guinea in a limited-overs international in early November and two 50-over matches in Kenya two weeks later.

Hong Kong then travel to Australia for T20 matches against Big Bash League sides Sydney Sixers and Sydney Thunder.

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Burke said that not all playing applicants have been successful, with Warwickshire’s 21-year-old Hong Kong-born Sam Hain, who has hopes of playing for England, among them.

“There are a few other players who, for whatever reason, are not what we wanted at the moment,” said Burke.

“There’s an opportunity to bring quality people here and it’s not just about cricket talent, it’s about what they can add to the team.

“We had about a dozen replies and some were confused about the criteria, thinking they just had to have lived in Hong Kong, but they must have been born here.”

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Hong Kong currently have 15 full-time professional men’s players and 10 women on support contracts, while Cricket Hong Kong is also developing a team of local Chinese players who it is hoped can one day graduate to the senior team.

“We’ve made a big commitment to make sure one of the Dragons players is selected to play on the Australian tour,” said Burke.

“It’s important that we integrate those players into the squad. When they go back to the Dragons they can pass on and share their experience of playing at such a high level.”

He is also hoping that Christie can enjoy a long-term future with the Hong Kong team.

“We are trying to get the right players to represent Hong Kong and do well for us in the World Cup qualifiers in 2018,” said Burke. “Our eyes are firmly on that very important tournament.

“Kyle will play against PNG and Kenya, and if he performs well he may have the opportunity to earn a contract going forward.

“He’s a very good young kid, got a mature head on his shoulders and loves cricket and talks fondly about his time in Hong Kong and what means to him, and that’s important as well.”