December 10, 2009

China

China's captain on starting from scratch

Martin Williamson

An interview with Wang Lei, China’s captain, in the National newspaper highlights how far the game has to go to get a foothold in the country, despite the gushing enthusiasm of the ICC and ACC.

Speaking at the recent ACC Twenty20 tournament, where China were thrashed by all comers, Lei said he had been playing the game for two years.

When I was asked if I was interested in playing cricket, I had no clue of the sport. I had never seen or even heard of cricket, so I was curious at first to know more about what this game was all about. Nothing seemed to sink in when they tried to explain how cricket was played, even after watching some video footage and demonstrations.

The introduction to the game was from the very basic, using soft balls. The first few months were all about fielding and then I was taught how to bowl. I never got anything straight but a few days later I did pretty well to hit the stump a few times. I know how to bowl a leg break and an off break, but I decided to take the easier option to bowl medium fast.

When I got to bat for the first time, after a few lessons and seeing how the drive-shot was played, I hammered the first ball like a baseball hit. I was later told that was the pull shot. I have learned to play all the strokes in the book yet the pull shot is my favourite.

The catching and throwing wasn’t difficult to learn, but batting and bowling need skills. And two years on, I feel I have done reasonably well for a first timer.

Initially, cricket sounded similar to baseball. In teaching the children, it became more interesting for me, and not only was I passing on the knowledge but I was learning more by doing the basics over and over again.

Whereas those running the game see China as a great untapped (commercial) market, Lei was more sensible in his expectations.

Ours is an experimental side but wait and see when the children start to come out from the production lines. We have some as young as nine and they hold a better future for China. I am one of the older players at 23 and the rest are very young … six of them are 16. So this team are going to be around for some time.

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Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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Posted by Sam on (February 17, 2010, 8:54 GMT)

The Chinese are one of the best performers in most of the sports, so I am sure that they can deliver the same results in cricket too. But it needs a lot of attention from ICC and also from the neighboring cricket playing nations. China will surely succeed.

Posted by Anil Koshy on (December 29, 2009, 15:19 GMT)

ICC should encourage teams like China where cricket is still growing sport. I am sure China can compete better than other associate teams. Instead of wasting money on teams like Canada & UAE, ICC should focus on China, Afganistan, Nepal, Uganda etc. Atleast these teams can field 8-9 local players.

Posted by Simon Butler on (December 14, 2009, 6:03 GMT)

China is a great untapped market for cricket, but it will be a long a rocky road to creating a respectable team as their team captain has said. Of course the ICC should be interested in establishing the game in China, but lets not get too far ahead. It will take years to build a group of crickets good enough to even match some of the lesser associates. I hope China dose well in the future, but don't expect big things for a few years yet. They have a long way to go.

Posted by Henry Pryor on (December 11, 2009, 16:57 GMT)

As a former cricket coach I remember feeling exactly as Mr Wang Lei did when teaching and coaching mostly in primary schools. Passing on the basics made me understand the game better and I wish I had been coaching when still playing. Mr Wang Lei sounds as if he will be an inspiration for new players in China. I wish him an the Chinese every success

Posted by GaryGarryBeers on (December 11, 2009, 3:24 GMT)

Its one thing to get the spin doctors version but to hear it from the horses mouth is the most reliable. As a cricket lover, I feel that it is wonderful that the sport is getting a go in countries such as China.What a feeling that must be, starting from scratch with a sport you know nothing about and two years later, your the captain! Brilliant! Much respect and support to Mr Wang Lei

Posted by Terry Jones on (December 10, 2009, 22:57 GMT)

I agree that China are a great untapped market, and are hopeful of seeing China climb the ladder to Full member within 20 years. China is the sort of country that would do well at Test Cricket, and most likely would be marketable, compared to other countries which prefer faster versions like ODI and T20I. I think this is an important example why cricket needs a multi-tier format to allow countries like China to climb the ladder through victories instead of ICC politics. I think ICC should push China to set up an elite first class competition (1 per state/provision/whatever, max of 6) and invite other players from around the world to attend, similar to IPL, say a Chinese Premier League (CPL). Even tapping a small portion of Chinese market will do wonders for the sport in China.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martin Williamson
Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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