Dhananjay Rao hopes to become one of few people from Hong Kong to make a living from the professional cricket scene.
The 16-year-old King George V student has always had a burning passion for the sport, which he says is underrated in the city.
“Even when I was playing football in primary school, I always knew I wanted to play cricket,” Dhananjay said. “I would always watch it on TV growing up and thought it was the coolest,
most technical sport out there.”
Since he started training seriously in Primary Six, Dhananjay has quickly risen to become one of Hong Kong’s top young players, getting selected for the U16 national team last year, as well as serving as captain of the school team and playing club cricket for Little Saiwan Cricket Club.
Still, he said it’s hard to have a fruitful cricket career in Hong Kong; so Dhananjay, who has an Indian passport, hopes to become a stand-out player for Hong Kong which, hopefully, will allow him to get scouted for club teams in the Indian Premier League.
“There is a lot of money involved in club cricket overseas, especially in India,” explained Dhananjay. “It’s nearly as big as the English Premier League is for football, so it is very possible to have a lucrative career in cricket.”
He hopes that the sport will start to receive more exposure in Hong Kong. “There are talented players here. I have some friends, who train over in India, who said that the standard is not [as high as] to Hong Kong. It’s possible to do well over there, which is why I’m so confident.
“The problem with Hong Kong is just the lack of interest. The players here are very good, there just aren’t enough of them. The key is to get the local population more involved with the sport, because right now it’s mostly just Indians and Pakistanis that play.”
Cricket is a notoriously complicated sport with games of varying degrees of length and difficult. For example, T20 cricket lasts for 20 overs (an over is when the ball has been bowled six times), and games are completed within a few hours; whereas one Test cricket match can last as long as five days.
But Dhananjay said the game is extremely exciting once you understand the rules and skills involved.
“Anything can happen in cricket,” he explained. “One ball can change the whole match; and there are also instances where one person can put on a dominant performance and inspire an entire team.”
Dhananjay, who is a fast bowler, recalled last year’s U17 club final in which he took four of the possible 10 wickets.
“It was awesome. Those are the moments you live for as a cricket player.”
Still, he admitted that cricket requires more mental resilience than any other sport.
“If you play long forms of cricket, you’ll be out there all day in the heat, sweating, tired. Cricket is the ultimate test of both physical and mental fitness – who can execute their skills and stay strong after so much time has passed.”
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Dhananjay’s advice to young cricket players – and for young people in general – is to accept failure as something positive.
“Even the best cricket players in the world fail more than they succeed, but you have to keep learning from your mistakes, look at why you failed, and use that to succeed more often.
For young cricket players – failure is guaranteed … and everyone [will seem] faster and stronger. Don’t give up, use the failures as learning experiences and just keep getting better.”