The Hong Kong national women’s cricket team stands out in Asia as one of the most culturally diverse groups. Kary Chan Ka-ying, one of the few Chinese on the team which boasts players from many different ethnic backgrounds, is determined to promote this seemingly “foreign sport” to the local community.
The 21-year-old has returned from the ICC Women’s Asia Qualifier, which was held in Bangkok, Thailand, last month. The top team would earn a ticket to the ICC global qualifying competitions for two upcoming World Cups. Although Hong Kong didn’t do as well as they had hoped – they were eliminated after winning only two of their seven games – Chan still dreams of taking part in an ICC Women’s World Cup at least once in her career.
“I want to see for myself the level of cricket in the international arena. It is still a distant dream, but I don’t think it is entirely impossible,” says Chan, who was named Player of the Match in one of the qualifiers.
However, her goals were not so clear two years ago, when she was struggling to find a way through a difficult period. Having been appointed vice-captain at the age of just 19, she began to doubt her ability to lead a group of players who were four to five years older than her.
“I thought I was too young to handle things, and I performed badly in every game,” Chan recalls. “But thankfully, my team trusted me and respected my decisions. They never questioned my ability.”
After conquering her self-doubts, Chan gradually returned to her best form by going back to the basics. She focused on improving her basic skills – namely batting and bowling – which helped to put her mind at ease and stick to her game plan.
A pre-tournament ritual, where the team selects a “DJ Master” to play music on their way to the competition venue and during warm-up exercises, also soothed her nerves.
Chan believes it is sharing such joyful moments that helps strengthen her team’s unity, which ultimately leads to better performances on the pitch.
“My team and I are like family. Once I was too scared to go to bat [when we needed to get only four or five runs to win], so another player stepped in. We always cover each other’s back,” says the all-rounder.
Chan urges locals not to think about cricket as “something for foreigners only” and to give the sport a try, like she did seven years ago. She says recruiting more Chinese players is the key to developing the sport in the city.
“Ever since I started cricket coaching, I’ve been trying to bring the sport to more local schools, because I also started playing the sport through a school programme,” the Baptist University Associate Degree graduate said.
Apart from the lack of local players, Hong Kong’s cricket team faces a few more obstacles, including the shortage of training venues and resources which allow players to become professionals. At present, the Mission Road Ground is the only standard cricket field open to the public, while the other venues are privately owned. Also, Chan and her teammates are part-time players who do not receive a monthly allowance given to other elite athletes. Without full-time professionals, it is hard to push the team to the next level, she says.
“This is why Asian qualifiers are so important to us. If we have a good result, we can perhaps earn a contract or sponsorship deal to play professionally,” she adds.
Whether the Hong Kong women’s cricket team can make it to the world stage remains to be seen, but Chan is determined to sharpen her individual skills while taking a step-by-step approach.
“There are schemes to send local players abroad for training with world-class players. I will work hard and hope I will be selected,” she said.