Taiwan and cricket are two words people usually don’t associate with each other, but dig a little deeper and one finds a thriving, albeit small, cricketing scene among the nation’s expats.
With just eight teams up and down the country, it sometimes proves difficult to bring enough of them together for a tournament, given work commitments and travel arrangements, says Taiwan cricketing stalwart and Taiwan Southerners Cricket Club (TSCC) chairman Andrew Carrick.
Englishman Carrick, 37, should know: As organizer of the Taiwan Annual Cricket Tournament, he brought four of those teams — TSCC, Formosa Cricket Club (FCC), Pakistan Cricket Club Taiwan (PCCT) and newcomers Pakistan Badshahs — together on Dec. 13 and Dec. 14 to help the tournament he founded celebrate its ninth year.
The two-day competition was held in Pingtung and Kaohsiung.
Taiwan’s troublesome climate means the season usually runs from around October through April.
But by far the biggest difficulty facing the teams is finding venues: In a place where baseball is king, there is a complete absence of playing surfaces suitable for cricket.
This problem can be overcome, however, by placing mats in the middle of baseball fields. Although the results aren’t perfect, the cricket is of a surprisingly decent standard.
The makeshift conditions and lack of facilities — most equipment has to be shipped in from places like Hong Kong and Dubai — doesn’t mean that the teams don’t take their sport seriously.
Take Formosa’s Indian wicketkeeper, Maidul Islam, 29, for example.
Formerly in Taiwan, Maidul now lives in South Korea, but he stopped off to play in Kaohsiung on his way back to visit friends and family in India.
Or, as PCCT member Asif Tanoli from Pakistan put it: “The aim is not just to play, but to play serious, organized cricket.”
Tanoli’s sentiments are echoed by Carrick, who said: “The Pakistani teams [both formed in the last two years] have brought a new intensity to cricket in Taiwan, which is good for the game.”
Another thing many of the players are serious about is the desire to promote the sport in Taiwan, a task that, despite their best efforts, is proving difficult.
“FCC has just three local members,” club chairman Prem Purswaney said.
The other clubs also have a few locals involved, but apart from wives, girlfriends and the occasional curious passerby, there was no Taiwanese talent on show at the recent tournament.
“The long-term goal is to introduce cricket into schools,” Carrick said.
But some kind of international accreditation must be secured first in order to make that a reality, he said.
FCC captain Charl Esterhuizen has set his sights even higher, hoping one day to push the game to the international level.
“But to do that, we need to get more local players involved,” Esterhuizen said.
Anything is possible, he added optimistically, citing Chinese women’s cricket as an example. Their national team made the semi-finals in last year’s Asian Women’s Cricket Championship.
Until such a time arrives, however, the clubs will have to content themselves with spreading the gospel among fellow expats.
As one would expect with this most English of games, most of the players come from countries that were formerly part of the British Empire.
Some of the teams have also been successful in attracting people from nations with absolutely no cricketing tradition, such as the US.