During his visit to Shanghai for the Shanghai International Sixes 2003, Mr. Syed Ashraful Huq Chief Executive ACC was told that all official sports in China are under their Sports Ministry and they have different centre for different sports. Cricket was under what they called “small balls centre”. Other sports in this centre are table tennis, golf, squash, bowling and softball. One person in the Sports Ministry is in charge of three sports and is designated as Duty Chief. Mr. Scott Brown and Mr. Mark Thomas who lives in Shanghai and organizes the Shanghai Sixes helped the International Rugby Federation to get into China about two years back and China officially started playing rugby since then. Mr. Scott Brown was instrumental in organizing the meeting between Mr. Ashraful and Mr. Lu Zhihua, Duty Chief of Chinese Cricket Association (CCA).
The keenness of the Chinese officials can be seen from the fact that they flew all the way from Beijing to Shanghai to meet Mr. Ashraful which speaks volumes for their interest. According to Mr.Lu, China has shown interest to play cricket since 1996 after watching the emergence of the game as a global sport and the success of the Asian countries in the world event. But he said being the nature of the Chinese where they would prefer to be approached than to approach; the idea was shelved until now. It is reported that cricket was first played in Shanghai in 1858 within the race course which is now known as the Peoples Square. It has to be mentioned here that The Shanghai International Sixes acts as the focal point for the cricket season and the development of the game in China. Mr. Lu added that for a start, they will like to introduce cricket in the cities and adjoining provinces of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou which is situated nearer to Hong Kong. He was very keen to introduce cricket to the schools. He further added that the system in China is such that it will take about 2 months for him to get all the relevant documents in order for him to apply to become an associate member of ACC and he will be communicating with ACC from time to time for assistance.
In October last year, Mr. Rumesh Ratnayake visited China for the first time on assignment from ACC with the aim of promoting cricket in China. In his report he has stated that cricket has been there for the past 100 years; however it’s only been played amongst the expatriates from UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India and Pakistan in Beijing and Shanghai. He also reported that China has allocated a beautiful ground in Shanghai for a full size cricket ground, which has the international requirements and it is shared with all the other sports such as Aussie rules, soccer and rugby.
Since the Chinese have never seen a cricket match or a proper cricket ground, Mr. Ashraful has invited Mr. Lu and other Chinese government officials to come to the Hong Kong Sixes on the 1st & 2nd November 2003 in Hong Kong. Mr. Ashraful has also officially invited the Sports Minister of Republic of China, Mr. Yuan Weimin, who is said to be very keen on visiting Hong Kong during the Sixes. He said, ‘If we can successfully get China to play cricket then it will be huge breakthrough both commercially and in our effort to globalize the game. I think the prospects in China are much better than most of the countries that we are trying to make a breakthrough. A step has been taken forward in the right direction and we have got positive response. I am very hopeful that China will apply for ACC membership in the next couple of months”.
Top officials of International Cricket Council and Asian Cricket Council are expected to be in Hong Kong for the Hong Kong International Sixes 2003.