China's captain on starting from scratch
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.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa