HK Profile: Anshuman Rath – HK's youngest player at the T20 World Cup

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Picture the scene. All the players are lined up, basking in the cheers from the crowd and welling up with joy in the afterglow of their enormous victory. Turns out that Scotland, despite a higher world ranking, didn’t stand a chance playing against a Hong Kong team on their home turf. Fans at Mission Road were treated to the privilege of watching Hong Kong run out victors by a significant 109 runs. Such excitement isn’t uncommon for a one-day international (ODI) cricket match in certain parts of the world, but there’s an extra edge to the excitement in Mong Kok. A special occasion, the match in January marked Hong Kong’s first-ever ODI cricket match on home soil recognised by the International Cricket Council. Among the players on the home team is 18-year-old Anshuman Rath – heart rate finally stable after an eight-hour match, but anxiety soaring as the post-match presentation gets underway. Rath played brilliantly, hitting 97 runs – the biggest contribution to Hong Kong’s final score of 259, and the largest score by any player on either team.

Rath’s stellar innings put paid to all those who questioned his ability due to his young age. Even more impressive is the fact that his star turn against Scotland was long after his debut for the national team. Some four years earlier, playing in an Asian Cricket Council tournament in the UAE. But his interest in cricket goes back even further and can be traced to 2003, when the ODI Cricket World Cup was taking place in South Africa and India made it to the final. Rath, of Indian heritage, though Hong Kong born and raised, tells us that, “I started playing cricket a year later, in 2004, at the Hong Kong Cricket Club. I began playing in the leagues, for my school, for the clubs and moved up to the national side at the age of 14.” To this day, Rath remains one of the youngest players in the national squad.

Rath’s parents moved to Hong Kong in 1994, and their son began training with international squads when he was 12-years-old. His first tour was to Papua New Guinea at the tender age of 14. “My favourite parts about touring are the little things. The breaks you have between matches; the time off you have which you spend with your friends, going to malls, embracing the country,” the teenager tells us.

It’s a significant accomplishment given cricket is the sport in which Hong Kong places highest as a national team – 14th in the world for the T20 format. Cricket has been played in Hong Kong since the British brought it to the city during the colonial era. However, despite 150 years of British rule, the sport was never able to catch a break until the 1990s, when the Hong Kong Cricket Sixes first took place, a now defunct tournament Rath was fond of watching together with his father.

Hoping to see more Hongkongers involved with the sport, Rath is bullish about the team’s prospects. “Hong Kong is on the rise. I think people should understand how fast the game is growing in Hong Kong, how we are developing and how we are doing incredible things on the world stage. I think people should keep an eye out for what’s to come,” he suggests proudly.

Currently studying in England on a cricket scholarship, Rath must continue to balance his studies with his sporting ambition. Professing admiration for former Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakara, Rath singles out not only the legend’s phenomenal skill as a batsman but also that, “He’s also a lawyer. He’s just an all rounded person. He has set the bar high for being an ideal sportsman for youngsters like me.” In his final year of school, Rath confesses, “I should be at school right now, I’m only [back in HK] because of the world cup.” He adds, “I’m going to have to catch up on my studies. My school have been very understanding when it comes to me going off on tours.”

Obviously proud of his team’s accomplishments, despite a disappointing showing at the T20 World Cup, Rath hopes Hongkongers notice the improvement in the SAR’s level of cricket. “The growth of Hong Kong cricket has been unbelievable. I think, given where we were two years ago, when we were 20th or 23rd in the world and now being much higher up... We’re doing fantastic job.” Krshna Moriani

For more information about the ongoing T20 World Cup visit icc-cricket.com; to follow Hong Kong’s local cricket Sunday Championship visit hkcc.org.

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