Cricket. A game played and loved by millions across the globe, with top International teams across five continents. It is, as a team sport, arguably second only to football in terms of worldwide popularity.
Yet, when you mention cricket (板球-(bǎn qiú)) in China, a bemused look often follows. Although it’s popular within Hong Kong, with many local leagues and a national team that competed admirably in last year’s Asia cup, mainland China has not yet truly embraced the sport.
The newly formed Shenzhen Cricket Club and the Shenzhen World XI are looking to change this, hoping to attract new players to the great game.
Made up of players from India, Pakistan, England, South Africa and Australia, the two cricket clubs formed in late 2018 and have been touring around China. The softball version of the game has been longstanding within Shenzhen, with the annual tournament taking place for a fifth time in November 2018.
This year is a big one for cricket. The World Cup, held every four years, takes place in June and Lalit Sharma, leader of the Shenzhen World XI, hopes this will prove the catalyst for a rise in the game’s popularity in mainland China ahead of the 2022 Asia Games in Hangzhou.
“We are looking to spread the game in China. I hope the World Cup and the IPL (Indian Premier League) will get some people interested and our overall target is looking at raising the popularity of cricket in time for the Asia Games in 2022, which will be held in Hangzhou, and have cricket in its schedule,” said Sharma.
Although it is predominantly an expat sport, China do have mens and womens cricket teams, with both competing on the international stage at the Asia Games in 2010, which was held in nearby Guangzhou, with the women’s side finishing in an impressive fourth place. Unfortunately, the Chinese women’s national team made headlines for the wrong reasons this week, having recorded the lowest total in International women’s history, being bowled out for 14 by the UAE team in the Thailand Women’s T20 Smash tournament (source: Indian Express, 2019).
Just last week, the Shenzhen World XI traveled to Yunnan province to take on Kunming Cricket Club. The teams have also hosted clubs from Hong Kong and Sharma spoke of his wish, “to create a league for the teams in southern China”. The big excitement for the teams in the coming year is the inaugural China cricket cup which will see clubs from around the nation compete, from Shanghai to Beijing, for dominance of the middle kingdom.
Speaking to Sharma, you can’t help but feel his passion for the sport that is unique in being a team game based on individual duels. The Indian native, called cricket the “gentleman’s game” and hopes to pass on the “great lessons” it can give to the next generation of Chinese boys and girls.
“In India, cricket brings people together and creates peace. The ebbs and flows of a one day game are fascinating and it gives you many life lessons. I’d recommend it to all!”
Both Shenzhen teams play regularly on weekends and are always on the lookout for new players at any level. If you would like to get involved and give this fantastic game a try, feel free to contact Lalit Sharma.
Lalit Sharma- Mobile no: 15907550500
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