Cricket is possibly, as many will say, the second most popular sport in the world. Millions play it, and Dongguan is no exception. When renovations at their regular Houjie Town park forced a short hiatus, the fans of the game refused to miss out on playing cricket in the summer heat. “We now have three places, one in Houjie, Nancheng and another in Guangzhou. Normally we play at a place called Nancheng Sports Park. We have a place between the football and basketball grounds,” said group organizer Jaffar Sadiq.
The Houjie pitch is grass, but in Nancheng, the 20 or so players who show up each Sunday are playing on a cement court. “On the grass grounds there is no fear of falling, but here, when we use the cement, we give some rules.” Sadiq says it’s not as dangerous as it sounds. The cement is covered with a multi-purpose plastic which absorbs impact, and to cut down on unnecessarily rough play, hits that rocket past a designated distance are given automatic scores. “Instead of running on the cement floor when we hit with some distance, we can give them a grand run and some we can say two runs is equal to that.”
While playing in Nancheng, teams have dropped from their usual 11 per side to ten, with players coming in from all over. Most popularly, participants are from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, but in the past the group included players from Mexico and Hong Kong. It’s all for good fun and the group suggests bringing a dark and white shirt for team play, but there are no requirements. Just show up. The day is more of a social gathering, but on occasion, during Chinese or Indian holidays the group likes to put together a team to enter tournaments in Guangzhou or make a bigger gathering in Dongguan, arranging lunch and dinner for the get together.
For four years the cricket matches have been a place for camaraderie and sport in Dongguan, there was once a second, British-run group in Dongcheng, but the Chinese audiences that gather haven’t quite caught on. “In Houjie, we have a big audience of Chinese and they used to sit and watch our cricket. It almost looks like baseball, so they feel like we are playing baseball,” said Sadiq.