Cricket in China through the eyes of an expat

Isaac Lockett talks to Simon Ashmore who is one of the founders of Beijing Ducks CC in China about the state of cricket in the country.

The Ducks in action during the 2019 edition of the Chiang Mai international sixes in Thailand (Photo: Beijing Ducks CC)

Cricket in China is virtually an unknown entity. However, the Chinese Cricket Association has been a member of the ICC since 2004.

There have been some proud and historical moments since China attained member of the international governing body, including the national team’s performances during the 2010 Asian Games. In that tournament, the men’s team put in respectable performances against both Pakistan and Malaysia. Meanwhile, the women’s team excelled, securing victories against Thailand and Malaysia before losing out to Japan in the bronze medal match. To top it off, China hosted the Games, with the cricket event being held in a purpose-built stadium in Guangzhou.

These snippets of on-field performances don’t allow cricket fans to gain insight into the country’s cricketing ecosystem. To learn more, Emerging Cricket recently spoke to Simon Ashmore who lived in China between 2015 and 2018. Ashmore is one of the founders of the Beijing Ducks CC so was able to provide useful insights into cricket inside the country, and in particular, the state of men’s cricket.

Beijing Ducks CC team photo during the UK tour in 2019. Over the course of the tour, the team raised over £2300 for the Motor Neurone Disease association (Photo: Beijing Ducks CC)

Ashmore describes that after moving to China in February 2015 ‘I looked up to see if any cricket was being played [in Bejing]. I found Beijing CC, which consisted of four teams at the time. To try and keep teams balanced, any new players are assigned to a team in turn, and I was assigned to the Daredevils. I played a handful of games in 2015 and although the cricket was competitive there was no social element to the team’.

This desire to create a more social atmosphere around club cricket drove Ashmore to set up Beijing Ducks CC along with fellow expats Tom Ashton, from New Zealand and Pete Baker, from America. After the three had discussed the idea and decided that it was plausible ‘the Beijing Ducks CC was formed in 2016 and entered the Beijing league (T20) that year. To date, we have entered and played in various 6-a-side tournaments in China with other expat teams. Also, we have entered the Chiang Mai International Sixes twice and the Philippines International Sixes twice, in addition to a UK tour in 2019’. 

As with many of cricket’s developing nations, the clubs in Bejing are forced to compete against other sports to secure facilities. Ashmore states that ‘we have to compete against football, rugby and American football to use the ground mainly, although there are some cricket specific facilities which teams can make use of.’ Ashmore explained that ‘currently the Beijing league plays at Dulwich high school in Shunyi on a full-size pitch with an artificial wicket. I know that in Shanghai there are at least of a couple of grounds with artificial wickets. I don’t think the Guangdong (Asian Games) stadium is active anymore’. 

The Ducks in action during the 2019 edition of the Chiang Mai international sixes in Thailand (Photo: Beijing Ducks CC)

According to Ashmore, it is not just facilities that prevent the development of cricket in China. ‘The sport struggles to engage [native] Chinese players as the game is hardly even known …football, basketball, baseball, American football and rugby are the known sports the Chinese are interested in,’ he says.

Along with a lack of knowledge, basketball and football are associated with high social status, viewed as ‘designer/branded’ sports.’ By implication, cricket currently struggles to attract native junior players. However, even though men’s cricket growth has slowed, Chinese national development teams and women’s teams continue to grow and thrive. 

The lack of facilities does not stop Ashmore and the rest of the Ducks squad from playing competitive cricket. He laments that ‘cricket leagues and competitions are few and far between in China. Shanghai has the largest league, two divisions of about six teams each. Beijing currently has three/four teams in a league’.

When describing the tournaments, Ashmore explained that ‘Most six-a-side competitions are usually hosted by a team/s in a city to attract a different expat groups to meet up and experience a new area’. The lack of competition has not prevented cricket from allowing the team members to make meaningful social connections. 

A photo from the 2017 Beijing annual dinner (Photo: Beijing Ducks CC)

Speaking about the effect that cricket has had, the founder of the club reflected that ‘the sport has definitely helped the expat community meet others from many cricket playing nations. The Ducks have members from the UK, Australia, NZ, USA, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Malaysia and Zimbabwe. There is a great sense of community around the sport and club but lots of expats still don’t know that there is being cricket played in China and by many nations’.

Players in the squad have formed ‘lifelong friendships’, and this was seen during the 2019 tour to the UK were ‘we had guys fly in from Aus,NZ  Japan, USA, UAE, Malaysia and China participating.’ 

Ashmore and the Bejing Ducks CC show that cricket can have a meaningful impact on the lives of expats living in China. However, as of yet, the sport is yet to make a large impact on the country’s sporting ecosystem.

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