Kinrara eviction caps week of bad news for associate cricket
A week of bad news for associate cricket has been capped by the news that a new developer has taken over the site of the Kinrara Academy Oval in Kuala Lumpur and has asked the Malaysian Cricket Association (MCA) to vacate the ground by the end of this month.
The venue, regarded as one of the best amongst ICC associate members, has hosted a number of ODIs, played a part in the 2008 Under-19 World Cup and is currently one of the host grounds for a regional World T20 qualifier. The venue was redeveloped last year for use in the South East Asian Games, in which Malaysia won gold in the men's 50-over tournament.
MCA president and ICC associate member director Mahinda Vallipuram has appealed to the Selangor state government to preserve the ground and has backing from Syed Saddiq, the Malaysian minister for youth & sports. Saddiq said on his twitter account that "this iconic ground must be defended".
As well as acting as a cricket ground it is also, as it's name suggests, home to the Malaysian Cricket Academy and has played a part in developing many Malaysian internationals in recent years. A social media campaign is fighting to save the venue, with many local cricket fans, players and officials on board. The Negeri Sembilan Cricket Association said that losing the ground could set cricket in Malaysia back a decade.
MCA President Tunku Imran, a former president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, told Malaysian sports website Stadium Astro that, "We can play cricket at other parks or football fields, but this venue is special for the sport after we worked hard to develop the place to become an iconic cricket centre".
The news is the latest in a string of bad news to hit associate cricket in recent days. Cricket Namibia announced earlier in the week that they are pulling out of the South African inter-provincial competitions they've played in since 2006 as travel costs were becoming too great.
The matches have been considered key in keeping Namibia in the upper echelons of associate cricket in recent years, and whilst Namibia plan on replacing them with other matches, the experience of the pressure of a tournament played over a long period will likely be lost.
Over in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Sixes, originally set to take place later this month, have been delayed by a year. The Hong Kong T20 Blitz, which had been pencilled in for February has also been postponed and will take place at the same time as the Sixes as part of a week long "World Festival of Cricket".
Funding shortfalls have been cited as a reason for the postponement, and they were also mentioned by Hong Kong wicket-keeper batsman Chris Carter who announced his retirement from international cricket at the age of 21 in order to pursue a career as a pilot. Carter, who was born in Hong Kong but grew up in Australia, played 11 ODIs and 10 T20Is in his short international career.
Whilst he hasn't completely ruled out a return to the Hong Kong side in future, his retirement comes on the heels of Jamie Atkinson's withdrawal from the Hong Kong side to concentrate on his teaching career and the defection of Mark Chapman to the New Zealand ranks.
Speaking to the South China Morning Post Carter said, "It is difficult to be a cricketer in Hong Kong given the lack of funding. People within CHK work so hard to try and allow us to play on a full-time basis. The likes of Mark Wright and Simon Cook really do their best, but they are not supported well enough by the government or the ICC."
Government funding in Hong Kong was greatly reduced when the sport was removed from this year's Asian Games in Indonesia, and ICC funding was hit when the increased funding for new full members Ireland and Afghanistan was taken from the associate budget. Whilst the ICC recently announced that they were seeking a return to the Asian Games for 2026, with a bid for Olympic inclusion in 2028, that will likely come too late for Hong Kong, who will be hoping that they don't suffer a similar fate to Bermuda, Canada or Kenya and slide down the rankings after losing ODI status.