Incumbent Hong Kong men’s captain Anshuman Rath has not been included in the squad selected for the impending T20 World Cup Qualifiers “so he can pursue other opportunities abroad” according to CHK’s media release on Wednesday.
Emerging Cricket can exclusively reveal that the Hong Kong born and raised left hander will switch allegiances to India and turn out in the country’s domestic system, where he hopes to make his debut in the country’s First Class Ranji Trophy competition later this year.
He will also be able to enter the IPL draft for 2020 as a local – and ‘uncapped’ – player.
The 21-year-old averages 51.75 from 15 ODIs and across his 9 First Class innings he has netted 391 runs at over 65 apiece.
“I would like to thank Cricket Hong Kong for everything that they have done for me over the years. It has been a very enjoyable ride with them since the age of 12 but I believe it is time to move on. I wish the players and support staff all the best and I will be keeping a close eye on their future endeavours,” Rath told Emerging Cricket.Become an Emerging Cricket Patron!
“That is the end goal yes, absolutely” he answered when asked if this decision was based around wanting to play for the Indian team.
“In the first instance however, this opportunity provides a chance to train and play full-time in a fully-professional system, with the added incentive down the line of potentially playing Test cricket. This has always been my dream, and the false start to my chance in the English system resulted in me taking a good look at all my options,” he continued.
In 2017 he was to be offered a contract by Middlesex, but it was determined that the sporting visa required was only open to players from Full member nations. He spoke about what happened at Middlesex on a recent Emerging Cricket podcast where he joined Kyle Coetzer to chat to us, after the GT20 Canada 2019.
“I will always be proud to have represented my birthplace, but I have to be completely honest with myself about the opportunities that are there for me both in earning capacity and playing experience with Hong Kong. With a 10-team World Cup and the First Class Intercontinental Cup being more or less cancelled, my skill set and future as a cricketer really does depend on me being able to find chances that best fit my style of play, which I have been working very hard on to suit all formats.
“This decision allows me my best chance to make the sport I love a long-term career option,” he concluded.
Rath’s parents migrated from the state of Odisha to Hong Kong in 1994 when his father set up a marine insurance brokerage in the then-British colony. Anshuman has held Indian citizenship his entire life and travels on an Indian passport.
Known to many for his partnership of 174 with Nizakat Khan against India in the 2018 Asia Cup, when the opening duo took their side within striking distance of India’s 285, Rath first started playing cricket with Hong Kong Cricket Club’s “Gappers” program. He went on to represent and captain Hong Kong at under age levels and furthered his cricket tutelage at England’s Harrow School where he completed his secondary education.
At the press conference after the India Asia Cup match, Rath said “I think it’s more exposure to high level cricket,” when asked about what Hong Kong needed to develop further. “You look at Afghanistan as a prime example. Back from 2011-2015, they were performing like us, upsetting the odd teams but going through a string of performances where they were getting bowled out for 140-150 on good decks, just like we did against Pakistan (in their first Asia Cup game).
“But with the right backing, they started getting better and better, they started training a lot harder, became fully contracted with professionalism coming. That’s something that lacks in Associates – the exposure to high level of cricket and today we proved we’re capable of it, and a lot of teams are. Look at Scotland at the World Cup qualifiers, they narrowly missed out. We just need that recognition.”
Despite Rath being top run scorer at the recent World Cricket League Division 2, Hong Kong finished last and were relegated to the Cricket World Cup Challenge Leagues, meaning the team lost ODI status and is over half a million dollars a year worse off in respect of funding from the ICC, and even more beyond that from Hong Kong government grants.
This news only compounds a horror period for Hong Kong. On top of recent social unrest, its governing body recently recorded (pdf link) an eye-watering loss of US1.6m in an 18-month financial year, consequently cancelling the HK Sixes and placing the future of the HK T20 Blitz in doubt.
Hong Kong’s tour to Oman and UAE will also be the first tournament for the squad under the guidance of recently appointed Head Coach, Trent Johnston who said “from my short time in Hong Kong I have been very impressed by both the skill and commitment from the players. The squad has a nice balance of youth and experience, we are bringing two players into the squad for their first major tournament who will be well supported by a number of experienced players.”
Aarush Bhagwat and Nasrulla Rana are those new players, following their involvement in Hong Kong age group squads. Nizakat Khan – who missed WCL2 due the ill-health of his father, who recently passed away – re-joins the squad, and after strong domestic performances and a good record in UAE conditions, Waqas Khan is also back. Veteran Tanwir Afzal has been dropped to the reserves list.
On Rath’s decision CHK High Performance Manager said “Cricket Hong Kong would like to thank Anshuman for his outstanding contribution over his many years representing Hong Kong and wish him well for his future endeavours.”
Aizaz Khan, a regular in the team over the last decade and whose 24 from 8 balls at number 11 in 2011 famously won a WCL3 match against Italy – a crucial win that preceded Hong Kong’s rise in the world rankings – has been named captain. Kinchit Shah, who will need to play a key role with bat and ball if Hong Kong are to proceed to the World Cup, will be Aizaz’s deputy. Former captain Jamie Atkinson – man of the match in a HK Premier League T20 match over the weekend – was not available due to commitments as a full-time school teacher.
The squad will depart for Oman on the 3rd of October to play in a 5-nation T20I Series before travelling to UAE for the WCQ tournament.
Aarush Bhagwat (Kowloon Cricket Club)
Ahsan Abassi (United Services Recreation Club)
Aizaz Khan (C) (Kowloon Cricket Club)
Babar Hayat (Pakistan Association Cricket Club)
Ehsan Khan (Little Sai Wan Cricket Club)
Ehsan Nawaz (Pakistan Association Cricket Club)
Ghazanfer Mohammad (Little Sai Wan Cricket Club)
Kinchit Shah (VC) (Hong Kong Cricket Club)
Kyle Christie (United Services Recreation Club)
Nasrulla Rana (Pakistan Association Cricket Club)
Nizakat Khan (Kowloon Cricket Club)
Scott McKechnie (WK) (Singapore Cricket Club)
Tanveer Ahmed (Hong Kong Cricket Club)
Waqas Barkat (Kowloon Cricket Club)
Waqas Khan (Little Sai Wan Cricket Club)
Shahid Wasif (Little Sai Wan Cricket Club)
Tanwir Afzal (Pakistan Association Cricket Club)
Raag Kapur (Hong Kong Cricket Club)
Simondeep (Singh Kowloon Cricket Club)
Haroon Arshad (Little Sai Wan Cricket Club)