Although the Templars did not accomplish its goal of qualifying for the Sunday League semi-finals (as the top 4 teams in Hong Kong) yet again, it was nonetheless, another fine, rewarding season, reflected by the close comradery and togetherness of the team. It was also a season where several of our young players vastly improved and grew in confidence, and it was especially pleasing to see the team displaying much application and emphasis on preparation before as well as during games. Not only have players complied with the disciplined routines set out during morning warm-ups and training, they have also significantly improved their understanding and knowledge of the game, manifested by their assuredness with field plans, strategies and solutions.
Where the Templars struggled this year was definitely the batting. Without regular seniors Roy Lamsam or Dylan Dearing firing, it was up to ‘new kid on the block’ Waqas Barkat to hold the batting together. Barkat had a superb first season with the Templars scoring 421 runs at an average of 60.14 and was the only Sunday centurion of the year when he gracefully hit 105 against LSW at Kai Tak.
Special mention also goes to Afzaal Haider for his incredible bowling performances for the season. A true match-winner in every respect. Although statistics do not quite reveal the full extent and impact of his bowling, he still ended up with 30 wickets at an average of 14.20 for the Templars. Throughout the season, Afzaal created opportunities on fairly placid wickets by bowling with imagination and wrecking havoc whenever he bowled around the wicket. It was an impressive display of application, guile and creativity, as his marriage with opening bowling partner, the ever-improving Aditya Kanthan, was complimented by several innovative field settings supported by arguably the best slip cordon in Hong Kong. His spells consistently did the main damage or made the breakthroughs even when we defending very small totals - a common sight for the Templars this year.
As with fine wine, Afzaal is simply getting better with age. He thoroughly deserved the KCC Bob Bell Cricketer of the Year award based on the simple fact that he has had the greatest impact in almost all of the games won for the Templars as well as the KCC Premier League.
It was particularly satisfying to see the Templars swoop the awards at the inaugural KCC Cricket Ball, with Kinchat Shah winning the Young Cricketer of the Year and Roy Lamsam receiving the Ivy Collins Trophy for his services to KCC Cricket. Even Saumil Shah got in on the action – he decided he needed more treasured pieces to hang on his wall so he won all the valued items in the auction!
Other highlights of the season included outright wins against current League Champions LSW; the Infidels in the KCC derby, (impressively led by vice-captain Dylan Dearing) and finally the nail-biting 1 wicket win against the HKCC Optimists.
For the first time in 3 years, the Templars achieved their goal of beating one of the top sides in the league. In their win against champions LSW, the Templars were defending a small total of 146 from 33 overs in a rain-affected match. It was wonderful to see youngster Ninad Shah put his hand up to display a match-winning 6-22 in 7 overs of deadly swing bowling to rout and crush LSW to 87 all out. It was testament to Ninad’s hard work after coming back from injury mid-season.
After bowling out their fellow KCC team the Infidels in the derby for a paltry 109 all out, Waqas Barkat hit a magnificent 80* off a ridiculously minute number of balls. Barkat was labelled as unstoppable as the win was completed off a mere 9 overs with boundaries and clean hits flying off the bat!
Finally, playing against the HKCC Optimists on a lively wicket on their home ground, the Templars held their nerve to chase a tricky 167 total. It was down to the final pair Kinchit Shah and Aditya Kanthan, where both batsmen cleverly rotated the strike in a combination of cheeky singles, calm nerves and daring shot-making. It was a mature innings from both batsmen as Kinchit finally end up scoring 76* and Aditya Kanthan 10* who hit the winning runs in a match-winning partnership of 41 runs, and celebrated with his trademark ‘Goldman Sachs’ fist pump securing a moral boosting, momentum-building victory.
As cited before in the Templars’ prior end-of-season reports, it is only a matter of time before key youngsters consistently produce such standout performances next year. Players such as Kinchit Shah and Aditya Kanthan are on the verge of becoming permanent members of the Hong Kong National squad, and with diligence, hunger and time-management, they are not far away from achieving their goals and making KCC and the Templars very proud.
Congratulations to Hersh Khatri, Suhaib Ahmed and Ashfaq Daood who have also managed to gain national colours and performed admirably for Hong Kong in the ACC Elite U16s cricket tournament held in Malaysia. Well done also to Kinchit Shah for performing so well in the ICC World T20s in Dubai.
In closing, I would like to thank the Templars for their continuing support and hard work. A special thanks goes to Dylan Dearing who captained so brilliantly during my absence and to Afzaal Haider who led from the front with the ball. I look forward to another fun, challenge-filled season with this young and ever-improving KCC team. Our 3 year plan has come full circle and it shall be very interesting to see what the next step for the Templars is. Who will excel, lead from the front and win matches next season? Talent is everywhere in this team, but it needs to be converted into big scores and cleverly thought-out wickets through discipline and careful planning.
Submitted by Roy Lamsam