Kinchit Shah interview: Difficulties of Hong Kong cricketer, opportunities for Associate teams and uncertainty over future

Mumbai-born Hong Kong cricketer Kinchit Shah shares the struggles of being an Associate cricketer, his second line of defence, concerns over the future of cricket in Hong Kong and more.

Vaibhav Shah, Oct 11, 2018 09:38:16 IST

The most endearing virtues of being young lies in its free spirit. Youthfulness is also a voyage of self-discovery where the smouldering passion within becomes the guiding light rather than rationale and reason.

The free spirit of the youth allows a 20-year-old Rishabh Pant to begin his Test career with a six.

Mumbai-born Prithvi Shaw’s unwavering passion for cricket from early days steered him play at the international stage at a tender age, and with a century on debut, Shaw is on his path of acquiring insight into his own character.

Being young can be extremely nerve-racking. Turning into an adult also means shedding the layer of childhood innocence and attuning to the harsh realities of the world. The uncertainty of future, making tough 'life’ choices and seizing the right opportunities can be a little too overwhelming.

Hong Kong’s Chris Carter had to come to terms with the dark cloud hovering over the future of Associate cricket, drawing curtains on his cricketing career at 21 in order to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot.

Last week the cricketing fraternity ringed in 18-year old Shaw’s career with much excitement and pomp, where he made a flying start to his Test journey, while, for Carter his cricketing adventure came to a halt as he discreetly left the sport to begin a new expedition wherein he would hone the skills of flying.

Carter will start his 55-week training programme in Adelaide and in all likelihood Shaw could be in Australia soon.

Shaw's past, present is and perhaps future will be well dissected, discussed and documented, but to understand the hustle of an Associate cricketer better, Firstpost caught up with a Mumbai-born Hong Kong cricketer Kinchit Shah at his residence, where he shared the struggles of being an Associate cricketer, his second line of defence, concerns over the future of cricket in Hong Kong and more.

“It can be really tough. Hong Kong is a very expensive place to live, so as things stand presently, only playing cricket is certainly not enough. For me personally, I have had the good fortune and privilege of receiving support from my parents. I am at a stage where I play cricket and simultaneously concentrate on my family business,” said the 22-year old.

Kinchit Shah in action during the Asian Qualifiers. Image provided by Kinchit

Kinchit Shah in action during the Asian Qualifiers. Image provided by Kinchit

“My family business involves trading of diamonds and we have three offices — one each in Mumbai, Hong Kong and New York. So I shuttle between Mumbai and Hong Kong, which also allows me to ferry between work and cricket. Currently, for me, that's the scenario, but for other Associate cricketers, it is definitely not an easy road because the funding is quite low in general. Personally, there will be a time in near future, perhaps in a year or two, when I will have to pick between my family business and cricket,” he added.

Despite having a cushion and luxury that few enjoy, Kinchit is pragmatic about his plans ahead. Although, he conceded that if cricket was commercially viable in Hong Kong, he wouldn’t have thought twice before sticking to the sport, because that is what he has loved doing from a very young age.

It was Kinchit’s father, Devang Shah’s love for cricket, which influenced him as a child and the seeds of developing a cricketing culture were sown early in Kinchit's life.

While speaking to Firstpost, Devang shared a personal story that resonates with many households in India.

“I was born and brought up in Bombay and my dream was to play for India, but my family circumstances didn't warrant me to take cricket full time,” he said.

Naturally, it was Kinchit, the elder of the two sons, who became the medium for Devang to channel his unfulfilled desires and for which he provided his steadfast support to his son.

Kinchit thinks he has got a year or two before he completely veers into his family business, while his benevolent father believes he can take some more time.

Devang said, "I will give him four years to make it big or get a contract in some of the franchise-based leagues going around the globe. Cricket till then should be his first priority followed by business. I can handle business till then. There shouldn't be any regrets in our lives as to we didn't give it our all. After four years, I would ask him to focus on family business with cricket then to be restricted as a weekend leisure.”

Devang even bought a franchise in Hong Kong T20 blitz, where Kinchit led international stars like Darren Sammy and Johan Botha.

In this photo taken on March 7, 2017, West Indies cricketer Darren Sammy (2nd L), who is playing with local team Hung Hom JD Jaguars at the 2017 DTC Hong Kong T20 Blitz cricket tournament, leaves the pitch with teammates after a training session in Hong Kong. - Foreign players have tentatively endorsed the return of international cricket to Pakistan after their whirlwind trip to Lahore for Sunday's heavily guarded Pakistan Super League final. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP)

Kinchit Shah-led Hung Hom JD Jaguars are the reigning champions of Hong Kong T20 Blitz cricket. AFP

Kinchit moved to Hong Kong when he was just three-months-old and just over two years later, he started accompanying his father to the Kowloon Cricket Club in Hong Kong. Young Kinchit would sit outside the field of play and patiently watch his father and his mates play cricket from 9 am to 6 pm every weekend.

Kinchit started participating in leather-ball cricket since he was 10. Like many of his current national teammates, Kinchit is the product of Hong Kong’s age-group programme, coming through the Under 11, 15, 17, 19 system and then ultimately graduating into the national team.

When quizzed about as to why Mumbai was not chosen as a breeding ground that would have provided with a lot more opportunities to which Kinchit explained that because he moved to Hong Kong early in his life, his focus was to complete his education and by the time cricket was given a serious thought he had finished his high school.

“If you have to play cricket for say Mumbai or India, you have come through the grassroots, take part in school and college cricket. I played age group cricket in Hong Kong and came through their system so naturally it was more suitable for me to play there,” said Kinchit.

However, Kinchit did recently took part in some club-level cricket experience in Mumbai, before playing against India in the Asia Cup last month.

“I did play a few games in the Kanga League, but with my international commitments with the Hong Kong side, I couldn't play the entire season," said Kinchit, who wishes to get more play time in Mumbai in upcoming years.

Playing against the country of his birth was obviously special, but despite the odds, he was raring to put on a good show for Hong Kong.

Hong Kong edged out the United Arab Emirates and Nepal to qualify for the Asia Cup, where they played against Pakistan and India. The 18th ranked Hong Kong side gave World No 2 team India a scare where they came narrowly close to pulling off an upset, in the eventual champions' opening match, where the Anshuman Rath-led side lost by 26 runs.

Kinchit left a mark with his impressive bowling spell, picking three wickets of Shikhar Dhawan, Dinesh Karthik and Shardul Thakur that robbed the Indian side of gaining any momentum during the final stages of the Indian innings.

"When I came on to bowl, Dhawan had already (got) past his century. So the idea was not to bowl at him and frustrate him by not giving him the strike. As the dots lined up at one end, Dhawan would try to do something different and the plan did work as a miscued big hit resulted in his wicket.

"For DK (Karthik), I knew he loves the sweep, so I kept bowling it away from his arc that too from round the wicket. If he still managed to hit me over the covers, I would have to appreciate the shot and carry on, but I knew I was in with a chance, if he mistimed a cross-batted swipe and that is exactly what happened," Kinchit explained the ploy behind dismissing two of India's frontline batsmen.

Hong Kong cricketer Kinchit Shah celebrates after dismissing Indian batsman Dinesh Karthik (unseen) during the one day international (ODI) Asia Cup cricket match between Hong Kong and India at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai on September 18, 2018. (Photo by Ishara S. KODIKARA / AFP)

Kinchit Shah celebrates the dismissal of Dinesh Karthik. AFP

A major setback that jolted Hong Kong cricket was when they lost their ODI status early this year in March during the World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe.

The loss of ODI status essentially means loss of identity for Hong Kong. Their cricket falls deep into the abyss of unbeknown and as a nation trying to burst its way in cricket, it is extremely detrimental.

The funds from International Cricket Council (ICC) and the government takes a severe beating, the sponsors pull out and most importantly the chance of playing with the best in the world is curbed, thereby affecting their quality of cricket. The cash crunch also becomes a segway for individuals involved with cricket to search for other forms of livelihood, thereby shrinking their talent pool.

“More than missing out on the 10-team World Cup the loss of ODI status hurts. I remember that day pretty well. The boys were down, all were pretty sad and disappointed, but inspite of having a very bad World Cup qualifiers. We came back pretty strongly as a team. We were still professional about things. We lost in March, but in the next four months, we did the hard yards.

"It was the preseason time for us and we regrouped as a team, practiced hard and we had one thing on our mind — to win the Asia Cup qualifiers — and thereby play in the Asia Cup and prove a point to the world where Associate members stand. We have shown to the people where Hong Kong cricket is and what it can do if given opportunities,” Kinchit expressed the remorse of losing the ODI status but also reflected the resolve within Hong Kong cricket to restart their journey.

Most Associate countries do not know when they are scheduled to get a good run of international matches.

"It is never a good feeling when the future you’re working towards is bleak," Kinchit said.

Imagine not knowing where your next meal is going to come from when you are surrounded by the darkness of unemployment. As a young adult it can be distressing and wading through the youth can become a huge task and life can so easily go awry if help doesn’t arrive at the right time. ICC must offer more help for Associate cricket in general who are in their jejunity.

"A lot of the Associates don't get the opportunity to play against full member sides and that can be frustrating. It is like you do well for years in World Cricket League and lower divisions and then you reach the top, but you realise its a plateau and you can't go any further," said Kinchit.

"They recently did promote Afghanistan and Ireland as a full member side, but what next? What about Netherlands, Nepal, Scotland, Hong Kong and the UAE. Where do these countries go? All we can see right now is play a lot of division cricket, play the tournament for four years, have one bad day in a marquee event and everything crumbles. I really don't know what are the chances of earning a full member status," Kinchit addresses the fears that an uncertain future provides and how it has perennially been a handicap for the Associate nations.

The shrinking of the 2019 Cricket World Cup to a 10-team affair has received strong and vociferous crictism from several quarters since the time it was announced. A move by ICC considered a step backward that is counter-productive to the motive of globalising the sport.

The young must be carefree. The young must not fear failure. The young must be liberated from the tyranny of logic, and liberation can only take place when there is an opportunity, and that is exactly what the young aches for; nothing but an opportunity to rise.

There are several accounts this year itself that make for a strong case regarding the arrival of the Associates, it is time to make way.

Updated Date: Oct 13, 2018 02:12:24 IST

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