Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 November 2019

Hong Kong soldier on despite absence of Anshuman Rath at T20 World Cup Qualifier

Much has changed since Hong Kong almost pulled off a huge upset over India at the 2018 Asia Cup in the Emirates

Anshuman Rath almost led Hong Kong to a famous win over India at the 2018 Asia Cup in the UAE. He is now trying to carve out a career in professional cricket in India. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Anshuman Rath almost led Hong Kong to a famous win over India at the 2018 Asia Cup in the UAE. He is now trying to carve out a career in professional cricket in India. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The last time Hong Kong played in the UAE, they gave the game’s most powerful country a fright, led by a 20-year-old captain with the world at his feet.

Much has changed in the 13 months since they fell a few runs short of a major shock against India at the Dubai International Stadium in the Asia Cup.

Anshuman Rath remains a richly promising talent. But he has had to move out of Hong Kong to make good on it.

Hong Kong have arrived for the T20 World Cup Qualifier this month without a number of the familiar faces from the 2018 Asia Cup. Rath is the most conspicuous absentee.

He has relocated to India in an attempt to make a go of a professional career that has been hit by many false starts already.

He first tried to make it in England, where he attended school, only to be blocked from joining the county game because of UK Home Office rules.

He gave up an economics degree to devote himself to cricket, then saw his national team’s opportunities cut when they lost one-day international status in March 2018.

Although they made a quick return to official ODIs, against Pakistan and India here last year, it was all too brief.

Faced with such an uncertain future on the international scene, he has chosen to try his hand in Indian domestic cricket instead.

“We found out a couple of months ago,” Aizaz Khan, Hong Kong's new captain, said.

“He discussed it with a couple of guys, and the coaches, and he has moved to India now.

“He has been a great player for Hong Kong. He did really well for us over the past few years, and we just want to wish him all the best for what is ahead.

“We lost ODI status recently, and we haven’t got Test status. Anshy is very young, and a very good player.

“He really wanted to play at the highest level, he made the move, and he said he wants to try to play Test cricket for India some day."

Hong Kong are well used to seeing their best young talent depart.

Mark Chapman became the youngest player to score an ODI century on debut, when he did so for Hong Kong against UAE in Dubai in 2016. But he has since switched allegiance to New Zealand.

Those who are left behind feel no bitterness towards those who leave, though, according to Aizaz.

“For us, we live in Hong Kong," he said.

"I haven’t thought about moving away. We just have to work hard over the next few years to get our ODI status back, and get to play against the top teams.”

Hong Kong start their Qualifier campaign when they play Ireland at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi at 2.10pm on Friday.

The top six teams from the tournament will play at the T20 World Cup in Australia next year.

Updated: October 16, 2019 10:56 AM

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