With Hong Kong facing two major international tournaments over the next nine months, with an opportunity to qualify for not one but two ICC World Cups, the Hong Kong Cricket Association has embarked on a program to send some of Hong Kong's leading players overseas to play cricket, at a time when the rain and heat make playing cricket in Hong Kong extremely difficult.
Eight players have been given opportunities in England, Australia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.
Hong Kong captain, Jamie Atkinson, and all-rounder Aizaz Khan are both playing Premier League cricket in the UK where they have both have enjoyed considerable success.
Atkinson is playing in the Birmingham league for Dorridge CC where he has scored over 500 runs at an average of 40+. He made his highest score of 81 to lead his side to a 63 run victory over Moseley CC. He has taken 19 catches and 5 stumping's behind the wickets. He has also been given an opportunity to play some T20 matches for Warwickshire 2nd XI.
Aizaz Khan scored his 500th run of the season last Saturday with an important 49 when coming to the crease with his side 2-48 chasing 128 for victory against Fair Oak CC. Khan has also opened the bowling and he has taken 13 wickets at an impressive economy rate of 3.39 for his Hampshire league club, Bishops Waltham.
Hong Kong's Premier League Player of the Year, Tanwir Afzal, recently returned from a six week stint in Malaysia where he competed in the Premier competition for Kedah, who won the Tier-A title without losing a match for the entire competition.
Afzal took the most impressive figures for the competition with an incredible 8-18 as well as scoring some very useful runs in the middle to late order for Kedah.
Hong Kong vice-captain and Hong Kong Player of the Year, Waqas Barkat has gone to Darwin, Australia, together with Irfan Ahmed, to play for Southern Districts CC in the Darwin & Districts Premier League competition.
Both players only arrived into Darwin last week and were involved in the 2-day loss against 3rd place Darwin CC. Both players made a start in the 1st innings but couldn't go on to rescue their side from being bowled out for 213. In reply Darwin piled on the runs to declare on 9-492 with former Northern Territories U19 player Tom Briggs smashing 151 off 154 balls. Waqas was among the runs late on day two with a quick fire 70 to give him some confidence going into this weekend's one-day fixture.
Colombo will be the home for both Babar Hayat and Nizakat Khan early next month when they play in the Sri Lanka U23 competition while Daljeet Singh will head to London in early July to join the MCC Young Cricketers program for a six week period. It is hoped that the experience will give the young quick bowler some valuable overs before the ICC World T20 Qualifiers in November. Daljeet will also play for Brondesbury CC in the Middlesex County Cricket League.
"Having eight of our best players overseas is something we have been planning for a while," said national Coach Charlie Burke. "It is vital that we ensure we get our boys into some top level cricket at this time of year when the poor weather limits what we can do in Hong Kong. By sending these guys overseas, it forces them to come out of their comfort zone and learn to play with a different group of men, in different conditions" Burke added.
"It also means that they start on a level playing field. It doesn't matter what they have achieved in the past - what matters to these clubs is what they can produce for them now. If they score runs then I'm sure they will get an opportunity to bat higher; take wickets and they will earn more overs."
"It is pleasing to see Aizaz getting runs as we value him in the late middle order and it's great to see the skipper (Jamie Atkinson) get over his finger injury and get some opportunities with Warwickshire," said Burke.
A very big thank you must go to all the clubs that have been involved in this program in taking on our leading players and ensuring they continue to develop their game.
The HKCA hopes to provide another update on the progress of the overseas based players at the end of July.
In related news, 14-year old Jhathavedh Subramanyan from HKCC has been invited by the Cavaliers Cricket Club (closely associated with Dilip Vengsarkar's cricket academy) to join their forthcoming tour to England during July and August 2013 together with some of India's best Under-17 year-olds. Jhathavedh got noticed by some Ranji Trophy players while playing with the HKCC on their tour to Mumbai earlier this year. Previous players who have represented Cavaliers Cricket Club are ex-Indian Cricketers Vinod Kambli and Wasim Jaffer. HKCA congratulates Jhathavedh on this honour and wishes him all the very best in the UK.