It’s like the viral phenomenon, ‘The Dress’. For some it’s black and blue, for others white and gold. Hong Kong cricket team, who play Zimbabwe in their ICC World T20 Qualifier opener on Tuesday, could be a bunch of mercenaries, a group seeking the remarkable, or a sign of what the future beholds.
Even in the sometimes odd world of Associate members of the International Cricket Council, Hong Kong is a paradox. A 44-year-old former Australia international, a half-New Zealander, and a bunch of Pakistan-origin players, among them a 16-year-old Waqaz Khan, certainly make an eclectic mix. Some may even deride them as opportunists, but it isn’t really black and white, or blue.
“My grandmother was Chinese, my great grandfather was born in Hong Kong, my fiancée was born in Hong Kong, my child was born in Hong Kong, I feel very much part of the country,” said Ryan Campbell, who had played for Australia. “Most of the players we have are either born in Hong Kong or spent most of their life in Hong Kong. They may not have a Chinese last name, but they’ve learned everything in Hong Kong. We are very much part of the country, and are very proud of it.”
“Ask Eoin Morgan. He is Irish, but is the captain of England. How does he feel? You know, the world is changing. No one lives in the same place for ever anymore. Hong Kong is a very transient city. Nearly a million expats live in Hong Kong. We are very multicultural.”
The last statement has a profound meaning. After all who really is a true ‘Hong Konger’? It’s a loaded question with no correct answers.
As Campbell says, the multicultural Hong Kong has moved beyond these binary considerations. There are caveats though. Campbell and a few such as Babar Hayat are not Hong Kong citizens, but residents. But then, Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China governed under the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ is unique.
Having said that, cricket in Hong Kong, as 21-year-old Mark Chapman agrees, remains very much an ‘expat sport’.
“Obviously the local community hasn’t been exposed to cricket much. But we are working on that with school programmes,” said Chapman, whose mother is Chinese. “In recent times, people have seen it only as an expat sport. But if you look at the last few years, we have three or four full Chinese teams playing in domestic cricket.”
The expansion of cricket in Hong Kong depends on their performance in international tournaments such as this, and on Chapman, for with his close Chinese background, the youngster, who plays domestic circuit in his fatherland, New Zealand, could well be the pioneer the city needs. That and Olympics. “If cricket is an Olympic sport, a lot will change, You know, the Chinese system is focused on winning medals in Olympics.” Hong Kong fields a separate Olympic contingent, but it is by all means a Chinese product.