‘Sometimes you pinch yourself’: how the Hong Kong T20 Blitz went from one overseas player to 27 in two years
A record number of foreign recruits will take part in February’s third edition of the tournament at Mission Road
Former Australian captain Michael Clarke was the sole overseas participant at the inaugural Hong Kong T20 Blitz in 2016. Just two years later, there are 27 foreign recruits as more world-class cricketers look to compete in one of the globe’s fastest-growing T20 tournaments.
Max Abbott, head of major tournaments at Cricket Hong Kong, was one of the pioneers who put together the 2016 event inside two months and he admitted he was surprised by how rapidly the Blitz has established itself.
Two weeks to go until the #HKT20Blitz and we are taking over the streets! Here's @KowloonCantons setting up the stumps on Temple St! Action on the field from Feb 6-11. Tix: https://t.co/wF0zRbZyoY @discoverhk pic.twitter.com/QUXpImr3rb
— Hong Kong T20 Blitz (@HKT20Blitz) January 23, 2018
“When we started this in 2016, I don’t think we ever anticipated that in 2018 we’d have 27 high quality overseas players coming for this tournament,” Abbott said of an event that has also secured broadcasting rights to a potential audience of 175 million.
“Sometimes you pinch yourself a bit, the owners commitment to lifting the profile has been far beyond what we’d have anticipated.
“We’re all doing this for Hong Kong and to promote sport and cricket here on a world stage – we hope more and more will want to join us on that journey.”
Cricket Hong Kong and the five franchises finalised their squads on Wednesday for the February 6-11 event at Mission Road, where 10 overseas stars from 2017 return, including Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka, Galaxy Gladiators Lantau), Darren Sammy (West Indies, Hung Hom JD Jaguars) and Dwayne Smith (West Indies, Kowloon Cantons).
“I loved the previous season of the Blitz, and cannot wait to represent Gladiators for the second time running. I’m super excited to get back with the team,” said Sangakkara.
“I loved the Hong Kong experience and vibe and to come again and play with the home-grown talent in front of such enthusiastic supporters is something I am looking forward to.”
Defending champions Cantons have gone for pace in their bid for a three-peat with Pakistan’s Wahab Riaz set to play in the Blitz for the first time.
They won’t be the only side with pace to burn, with Hong Kong Island United securing 2.16m quick Mohammad Irfan, while the Galaxy will have young gun Jofra Archer, who has been bowling in excess of 150km/h in the Big Bash League, in their armoury.
City Kaitak boast a wealth of international experience with West Indies’ Rayad Emrit returning to the franchise and supported by Sohail Tavir, Ravi Bopara, Samuel Badree and Kyle Coetzer, who was the second leading run scorer in the tournament last year.
“The depth of talent in this year’s overseas draft is incredible,” tournament director Matt Stiller said. “The franchise owners have done fantastically well to assemble these squads, which are sure to provide a great spectacle for cricket fans in Hong Kong.”
More than 120 sixes were hit over five days of the tournament last year and that number is expected to increase with some enormous hitting power signed on.
HKI United’s Kamran Akmal is one of the most notable with 145 sixes in his T20 career alone, while Galaxy’s Cameron Delport smashed 109 off 59 balls for Leicestershire in England’s T20 Blast last season.
And not to be forgotten is the hitting power of the locals, with Hong Kong captain Babar Hayat coming in off the back of being the leading run scorer in Nepal’s Everest T20 League and Nizakat Khan looking to repeat the dose of his whirlwind century against City Kaitak in last year’s Blitz.
O verseas: Samuel Badree (WI), Rayad Emrit (WI), Sohail Tanvir (Pak), Ravi Bopara (Eng), Kyle Coetzer (Sco)
Domestic Players: Anshuman Rath, Aizaz Khan (c), Waqas Barkat, Jamie Atkinson, Manjinder Singh, Ishtiaq Muhammad, Umar Mohammad, Raag Kapur, Mudassar Hussain, Siegfried Wai
Galaxy Gladiators Lantau
Overseas Players: Kumar Sangakkara (SL), Seekkuge Prasanna (SL), James Franklin (NZ), Cameron Delport (RSA), Jofra Archer (Sussex), Chetan Suryawanshi (SGP)
Domestic Players: Karandeep Singh, Haroon Arshad, Imran Arif, Shahid Wasif, Amandeep Singh, Li Kai-ming, Moner Dar, Muhammad Balal, Mohammed Osama, Awais Mohammad
Hong Kong Island United
Overseas players: Kamran Akmal (Pak), Mohammad Irfan (Pak), David Wiese (RSA), Luke Ronchi (NZ), Hussain Talat (Pak), Ryan ten Doeschate (NED)
Domestic Players: Tanwir Afzaal, Ehsan Khan, Yasim Murtaza, Zeeshan Ali, Daniyal Bukhari, Ahsan Abbsai, Suhaib Ahmad, Jason Lui, Chris Carter, Hamed Khan
Hung Hom Jaguars
Overseas players: Darren Sammy (WI), Ben Laughlin (Aus), Riki Wessels (Eng), Johan Botha (RSA/Sydney Sixers), Roelof van der Merwe (Ned)
Domestic Players: Kinchit Shah (Capt), Nizakat Khan, Tanveer Ahmed, Adil Mehmood, Kyle Christie, Ninad Deveng Shah, Nadeem Ahmed, Scott Mckechnie, Damien Yee, Aarush Bhagwat, Rana Nasrulla
Overseas Players: Dwayne Smith (WI), Wahab Riaz (Pak), Samit Patel (Eng), Ashar Zaidi (Eng), Paul van Meekeren (Ned)
Domestic Players: Babar Hayat, Ehsan Nawaz, Waqas Khan, Ryan Buckley, Adeel Shafrique, Hussain Butt, Hassan Khan, Simandeep Singh, Sunny Bhimsaria, Saad Mahmood, Bobby Chan