On the theme of sustainable, and not just situational, development, Hong Kong have redesigned their domestic cricket structure to account for the increasing numbers of players and the wide differentials in the players’ abilities. There is a streamlined Premier League incorporating two-day games and the Saturday, more social, cricket league has been split in two. The Twenty20 competition has been done away with. Charlie Burke, Hong Kong’s effervescent young coach, explains why.

“The aim when I came in (in April 2010) was always to get Hong Kong playing at an even higher level than it has been. There were a lot of long-established players in the team who had done a lot but right now we have one of the youngest squads in ICC World Cricket League Division 2 and these are the players, and others even younger than them who are going to have to carry Hong Kong forward in the years ahead. The ICC Intercontinental Cup is something we want to be part of and that’s four-day cricket so it makes sense that if we want to get there we need to have our own multi-day competition. What bowlers will need to have to do is bowl three or four long spells a day and batsmen build innings over 100 overs and the new Premier League allows that to happen.

“It’s about being disciplined and tough with yourself to get to be better cricketers. I spoke with the club captains and administrators at the end of last season and they all said how much they enjoyed playing in the 2-day Fincher Shield match between HKCC and Kowloon CC and if that could be extended to more teams it would be a good thing.

Winners, Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 3 2011

“It’s funny because we’re going away from the way the rest of world cricket seems to be going because we’ve actually dropped our T20 competition. You had 30-plus clubs all trying to get to play in six venues every week and we all felt we needed to put a priority on getting players better. We’re trying to strengthen that core group of 60 players in Hong Kong. We want players to learn their trade and clubs to hold on to their older players while keeping domestic cricket at the centre of national development.

“Hong Kong cricket’s great for the way that even with the weather – which can be too hot or a little cold – there’s always people who are keen for a game. The thing is with such a wide range of ability and commitment around, you’ve got new Chinese youngsters at one end and people who are winding down their cricket at the other, about 85% of players are like that. And then you’ve got them facing Irfan Ahmed every weekend.

“Social cricket isn’t going to produce the best level of cricket but it can’t be all about our elite players, Hong Kong cricket’s also about providing opportunities for all players whether or not they have aspirations to the national side. Playing good cricket, and we want to measure ourselves with the best Associates, is a cultural thing and an attitude thing. If a player agrees to play club cricket they’ve got to put some pride and respect into preparing and practising.

“These structures are a work in progress and we’re going to look at them again at the end of this season. We’re trying to create something that’s going to stand the test of time.”

Hong Kong Cricket Profile

Filed August 11th, 2011