A Hong Kong Policeman And Cricket

A Hong Kong Policeman And Cricket
The Author, 1975
Of the sports and pastimes introduced to Hong Kong by the occupying British Forces in 1841, cricket was to quickly play a very significant role in its social and recreational life which it still does. Apart from the years of Japanese Occupation it has been played there every season and now both Hong Kong and China are two of the 104 countries or territories that are either Full or Associate Members of the International Cricket Council (ICC). As such they are required to conform to the Laws, Regulations and The Spirit of Cricket introduced and upheld by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). The end of Hong Kong as a British colony in 1997 has not affected the development of its cricket at all either, quite the contrary in fact as can be seen online at www.espncricinfo.com This has been largely due to generous funding by the ICC and sponsors for numerous competitions including those for women's cricket. For many years now, in order to be eligible for a national team, a player must either have been born in his or her country or territory or have been resident for a long time. In Hong Kong pre-1997 this spelled the end of UK servicemen and overseas employees on short tours or contracts being selected for the national team. Locally every player just wishing to take part in a League or Cup match also had to be registered with the Hong Kong Cricket Association (HKCA).

It was a real bonus to my own career with the Hong Kong/Royal Hong Kong Police Force to find that cricket was so well organised and competitive, something I had grown accustomed to from primary school age right through to arrival in Hong Kong in 1962. And my three decades of police service happily coincided with the growth of tourism when international teams were also keen to play in and enjoy Hong Kong. This was to encourage us keen amateurs to try to raise our game against them, produce something special and ultimately impress and possibly inspire our grandchildren. In my case I was to take the field with many Test and County players in the 1960s, the mere occasions and not their inevitable outcomes being what really mattered, although as an opening bowler on some testing wickets I took a total of ten First Class players' wickets, most of them genuine!

During my first two tours of duty from 1962 to 1970, each of three-and-a-half years, the Force Sports Council always supported policemen representing the Colony, either in home fixtures or on overseas tours, and particularly when it came to the Olympics and Police Olympics. These events and tours, including cricket, could take us away from normal duty for up to three weeks but did not affect the balance of our annual local leave entitlement of fourteen days. The rationale behind this was of course the need to keep the Force as fit as possible for its often stressful duties, to provide a well earned, enjoyable and relaxing break, and to show the Force in the best possible light.

Cricket in Hong Kong had also played its part in breaking down social and racial barriers after the League started in 1903 and in this respect it was important for the Force to enter a team as soon as possible which it did the following season. When our Police Cricket Club reached its century of League cricket in 2004, I recorded as much of its history as I could lay my hands on and some of the highlights of my work are at Chapter Three. The PCC closed down in 2010 after the last cricketing expatriate officer retired. He had only been able to keep it going after the 1997 handover by enlisting some "Auxiliary policemen" to keep a viable "Police" team in the HKCA Saturday League. This was only tolerated by the Commandant of the Training School (now the Police College) for as long as there was a regular police officer playing on the College ground with these keen young men of Indian sub-continental origin who needed somewhere to play League cricket. For the whole of my service only one local Chinese officer, a constable, played for a police team, and he had only learnt to play by bowling in the nets to members of the Hong Kong CC where his father was the head groundsman.

Chapter One - My Own Background
Soon after the outbreak of war in September 1939 my father's Canada Life Assurance Company branch in London informed all its UK employees that accommodation would be made available for their families in Toronto if they chose to evacuate. Many, including my father who had just escaped from Dunkirk, were to take up the offer and so my mother, sister age five and myself, just a year old, departed from Liverpool docks in July, 1940 as Hitler was preparing to invade England. Two months later Churchill stopped these evacuation voyages to Canada and the USA when the S.S. "City of Benares" was sunk with the loss of 262 passengers and crew, mainly mothers and children. So being ahead of that disaster was my first stroke of luck. The second was the survival of my BEF father, firstly from Dunkirk, then Abyssinia, the Desert and finally Italy with the Eighth Army. Thus fate decreed that we could be reunited as a family at our East Twickenham home in May 1945. My paternal grandparents who lived in East Sheen had kept an eye on our home for the whole of the war apart from a few months when they wisely moved to the comparative safety of Hampshire at the height of the V bomb attacks. My other grandparents in East Ham also survived the Blitz and V bombs and none of the family homes were damaged either, so we were indeed two very lucky families. Age nearly six, and with father not yet demobbed in May 1945, I remember the return train journey from Toronto to Halifax, Nova Scotia, the friendly crew on the S.S. "Ranchi" and the slow, sooty rail journey south from Greenock to London through war-torn Britain, followed by rationing and having to use coupons even as a small boy.

My first big treat after the war was being taken to the Oval by my father in August 1947 where we saw Denis Compton score 53 against the South Africans in his record-breaking year. He was my primary school's idol as was Len Hutton in the north of England and we all wanted one of their Stuart Surridge or Gradidge bats. A bigger treat lay in wait for me in May 1948 when Don Bradman's Australians came to Essex. Details of that memorable day, other cricket and how I was accepted for the Hong Kong Police Force in 1962 now follow in Chapter Two.

Chapter Two - Growing Up With Cricket And Early Days In Hong Kong
After the delight of seeing Denis Compton in 1947, I was lucky to witness Don Bradman's Australians score a world record 721 runs in one day at Southchurch Park, Southend the following May 1948. My mother had taken me to see her cousin Molly who was married to the Essex and England leg-spinner T.P.B. "Peter" Smith who after meeting us was mercilessly hit all over the Park, as was rising star Trevor Bailey. Essex were then bowled out twice the next day, a humiliation that England were also to suffer in the imminent "Ashes" series which they lost 4-0, its lowest point being dismissed for 52 at the Oval of which Len Hutton scored 30.

So already, at age nine, I was witnessing the highs and lows of cricket which over my playing years just about evened out. One might think it's all going wrong but hold tight and the unexpected can happen, which is all part of the enduring charm of the game. Peter Smith illustrated this when batting at number eleven for Essex against Derbyshire in 1947 he scored an incredible match-winning 163. This still stands as another world record in a first-class match, oddly preceding his part in helping the Australians score their own world record 721 in one day. My usual approach to such events, as with my police career, was not to dwell too long on a disappointing episode but learn from it and do one's best to ensure it doesn't happen again or attempt to quickly put things right. This was also my advice to colleagues when they failed to match the standards I expected of them.

A Hong Kong Policeman And Cricket
The Author, 1963
Anyway, back to my pre-Hong Kong cricket years. With lots of practice bowling with a tennis-ball at stumps chalked on my Twickenham primary school wall and with school friends in the Richmond Old Deer Park close to my home, I was selected for the all-Twickenham primary schools XI in 1949. Then, in my final year at Hampton Grammar School I took a record 56 wickets for the 1st XI in 1957. That led to trials for the Middlesex Grammar Schools XI to play Notts at Trent Bridge but a future Middlesex opening batsman Mike J. Smith blunted my bowling in the final trial and I wasn't selected. But coincidentally, nine years later in Hong Kong, I dismissed another Mike Smith (MJK), captain of the MCC "Ashes" team visiting the Colony on its way home. Between 1958 and 1960 I declined cricket at Leeds University because its season always clashed with exams but after graduation and during my eighteen months as a trainee sales executive I played for a strong Courtaulds team that won both the Coventry Works League and its Cup competition in 1961. However, in early 1962, after Courtaulds were subjected to a takeover bid by ICI I was told my future lay elsewhere. I had been unsure of my prospects with the company anyway and leaving it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Disciplined police and military service had run in the family for at least a hundred years and I opted for a police career overseas, the Metropolitan Police starting salary for a constable in 1962 being just six pounds a week. Several colonies were still available but I decided to apply for the paramilitary Hong Kong Police Force, spurred on by an old school friend who had only recently joined as a Probationary Inspector and was clearly handling and enjoying both his duties and team sports. Like me he had won Colours for cricket and rugby at Hampton Grammar School and within his first year had already represented the Force at both. This convinced me that I should apply for the same post and after being accepted by a Crown Agents panel noting my five years in the School CCF and Leeds University degree, my squad of eight expatriate officers and eight local officers began its six months training at the Police Training School on Hong Kong Island in September 1962.
A Hong Kong Policeman And Cricket
HK team v Malaysia 1965
We all hoped to be confirmed as full Inspectors after three years service during which we had to pass more professional examinations including, for the expatriate officers, the first grade of spoken Cantonese at the Government Language School. Once confirmed, our first tour would end six months later and off the expats would go on vacation leave, long enough for some of us to get married in 1966 and, in my case, bring a bride to the Far East on a proverbial "slow boat to China". Travelling with only ten other passengers on a pre-containerisation Glen Lines freighter was an excellent introduction to Port Said, Aden, Penang, Port Swettenham (now Port Klang), Singapore and Manila where at each port except Aden we were allowed ashore, even hiring cars for up to three days while the ship laboriously unloaded and re-loaded cargo in nets. All this was new for my young bride but I had already toured Malaysia and Singapore with the Hong Kong cricket squad of sixteen in May 1965, the highlight of which was the three-day "Interport" match against Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur when I became the first policeman to ever represent the full Hong Kong team which I shall mention again in Chapter Three.

Chapter Three - Highlights Of My History Of The Police Cricket Club And Its Members
A Hong Kong Policeman And Cricket
Police Recreation Club (PRC)
1904 - Formed from a small number of expatriate police officers relaxing at the Police Recreation Club (PRC), a team was first entered in the Hong Kong Cricket League in the 1904/05 season. Its "pavilion" was a rudimentary mat-shed on ground donated by a neighbouring club on the edge of the Happy Valley Racecourse.

A Hong Kong Policeman And Cricket
Gary Sobers
1940 - Under the captaincy of the Commissioner of Police Thomas Henry King, PRC II won the 2nd Division League championship and again in 1967. Thomas King retired a few months before Japan invaded Hong Kong in December 1941 and so fortunately avoided internment in Stanley Prison.

1948 - Of the 321 expatriate police officers interned in Stanley Prison between 1942 and 1945, only 4 were to play for the PRC again when League cricket resumed three years later. Most of the PRC's fabric, pre-war records and photographs had been destroyed and a new clubhouse was built from Police HQ welfare funds.

1962 - PRC members start to be selected by the HKCA for matches against touring teams.

2 April 1964 - I had the finest cricketing moment of my life when playing for the Commander, British Forces XI against E. W. Swanton's Commonwealth XI at the HKCC, Chater Road at the end of my first full season with the PRC. The great Gary Sobers had despatched my first ball for four but then cut my next lifting ball to the left of the wicket-keeper who took an excellent tumbling catch. To this day, neither I nor the wicket-keeper, another police inspector named Mike Prew, can quite believe this happened. Gary more than made up for this short stay at the crease by scoring 106 in 90 minutes the next day against the full Hong Kong team.

A Hong Kong Policeman And Cricket
The Selangor Club
May 1965 - I become the first Hong Kong policeman to be capped for Hong Kong when selected for the 18th three-day "Interport" against Malaysia at the Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur. I was also fortunate to meet Sir Claude Fenner, the last British Commissioner of the Royal Malaysia Police at the Police Depot when Hong Kong played and beat the Malaysia Forces/Police team in a two-day match. In August 1965 Singapore left the Malaysia Federation and appointed its own local Commissioner as did Malaysia when Sir Claude retired.

A Hong Kong Policeman And Cricket
Sir Claude Fenner
1965 to 1969 - I win three more caps against Singapore and Malaysia and am also privileged to play against County Champions Worcestershire, the MCC (England) team returning from its 1965/66 "Ashes" tour, the Cricket Club of India and an International XI of current and future English Test players. In total, I was on the field with 33 Test and County players and took 10 of their wickets, admittedly being gifted a few. Just bowling at household names of the day such as England stalwarts Colin Cowdrey, Geoff Boycott, Tom Graveney, MJK Smith and Mike Denness, Indians Polly Umrigar and the Nawab of Pataudi, recently retired Australian captain Richie Benaud and of course Gary Sobers are indelible memories. I was only a useful club cricketer but what a unique opportunity Hong Kong offered myself and others in those days. Batting against them (always after the visitors to prolong a match!) was however a question of "How long can I ride my luck? So "Give it a go, man!" My favourite dismissal scorebook entry is "Lacy-Smith caught Benaud bowled Ramadhin 4". After my boundary, two of the greats must have decided it was time for me to go and off I went!

A Hong Kong Policeman And Cricket
Tom Graveney
1964 to 1989 - During these years the PRC (re-named the Police Cricket Club in 1976 when the PRC was demolished in Happy Valley to make way for a flyover and the PCC moved to the Police Training School) became known as "Knock- Out Specialists". We won the premier Rothmans 45 then 50 overs knock-out Cup five times and were runners-up on another six occasions. The most exciting and improbable fighting victory came in the Cup final of 1973 when we were bowled out by the Army for a mediocre 95 on a slow wicket but managed to win by ONE run when their last batsman, going for glory, slashed at a wide ball and was caught by our wicket-keeper Tony Cooper diving to his right. Long celebrations ensued as they also did in 1977 when we won the premier League championship (14 all-day Sunday matches) for the only time in the club's 72- year history. We needed to win the last match against the Kowloon CC but if they won they would be champions - a classic situation. Following our 190 for 9 declared the KCC were going very well at 134 for 2, but then a run-out caused panic and they simply collapsed, losing their last 8 wickets for 14, all out 148 and at last we were champions.
A Hong Kong Policeman And Cricket
Planning the new Police HQ, 1994
Along with my contemporary, captain and fierce competitor Brian Wigley, we really felt it was our moment after trying so hard with other old PCC faithfuls for so long and appropriately Brian and I took eight of the ten wickets that day. Brian was subsequently voted Hong Kong Player of the Year for his all-round achievements that season and went on to manage and train the Hong Kong team for several years. A hard and athletic man, even as a teenager he had played centre and wing for Leicester Tigers before serving the Kenya Police for one tour.

1995 - Brian Wigley and I retired to the UK in senior ranks after each playing for the PCC for about 30 years. Cricket had been the perfect antidote to the pressures of work and we also achieved success with the HKCA that we might not have had anywhere else, as well as experiencing many unforgettable moments. But we could not have had all of that success and enjoyment without our colleagues and so I will devote my final Chapter Four to their own high points and the good times the Police Cricket Club enjoyed locally and on two overseas tours.

Chapter Four - Notable Achievements By Hkp/Rhkp Cricketers And Tours
Hundreds of expatriate police officers played for the HKP and RHKP teams during my service 1962 to 1995 but only a total of eight ever earned treasured "Interport" caps against Malaysia and Singapore. This 37-match series going back to 1890 ended in 1987 but the ICC "Mini World Cup" competitions starting in 1978 and held every four years also counted for a Hong Kong cap. The list of HKP/RHKP "Interporters" and those chosen for the "Mini World Cups" (where the top two or three teams would progress to the World Cup proper - Hong Kong has so far never achieved that distinction) is as follows :-

A Hong Kong Policeman And Cricket
PRC Rothmans Cup, 1973
Ian Lacy-Smith 4 between 1965 and 1969;
Kit Cumings 4 between 1968 and 1975;
Brian Wigley 1 in 1968;
Mike Duggan 5 between 1969 and 1974;
Roger Booth 3 between 1972 and 1974;
Rod Starling 3 between 1975 and 1981;
Nigel Stearns 7 between 1978 and 1987;
Glyn Davies 2 in 1983.

Mini World Cup
Nigel Stearns a total of 21 matches in England 1982, England 1986 and The Netherlands in 1990;
Glyn Davies a total of 12 matches in 1986 and 1990 when he was also Hong Kong's captain;
Rod Starling 5 matches in 1982;
Tarun Sawney 1 match in 1990.

Nigel Stearns was the PCC's and Hong Kong's outstanding batsman for many years and holds the record score of 169 in an Interport achieved in the final match against Singapore in 1987. For many years after retirement from the RHKP he was the HKCC General Manager,then he moved to the same position at the Singapore CC.

Of the PCC "Interport" bowlers, Ian Lacy-Smith and Kit Cumings each took 11 wickets and were also the most economical.

For the most part less competitive but always enjoyable, entertaining visiting tourists was always welcomed once the PCC were able do so on their own at the Police Training School ground. They nearly always brought their wives and girlfriends with them, mainly to enjoy the sights and shopping but everyone was sure of a good day out with us which often included a meal downtown after the cricket. This was also the case when in 1981 and 1983 the PCC toured Singapore, Malaysia and the North Island of New Zealand via Sydney. Our hosts certainly went to great lengths to ensure that we enjoyed everything they had arranged for us or taken us to see and we in turn did our best for every team that visited us, who were as follows:- the Singapore Police in 1966, the Singapore Combined Services in 1968, and in the 1980s and 1990s Hertford CC, Thomas Cook, the Auckland Travellers Association, farmers from Wagga Wagga in New South Wales, the Northern Territory Police from Darwin, the Auckland Police, the Rotorua Police and lastly the Normandy Nomads from Guernsey who had brought along Derek Underwood of 297 Test wickets fame.

Readers may be wondering how any of us cricketers found time to police Hong Kong. We did so, very well in fact, and in retirement look back on our careers with great satisfaction and affection where cricket played an integral part. We now keep going as a lively Royal Hong Kong Police Association with over 900 Full and Associate members world wide. I think it is now time to bid farewell from the heart of Somerset and ITS cricket, including watching my two young English grandsons playing for their school and from my armchair, the iPhone videos of my two young Australian grandsons excelling with bat and ball at Sydney Grammar School. The Lacy-Smith cricket story hasn't finished yet

map of Hong Kong
Maps of Hong Kong
Colony Profile
Hong Kong
Hong Kong Cricket Association
International Cricket Council
Ian Lacy-Smith, CPM, BA (Hons) (Hong Kong/Royal Hong Kong Police Force 1962-1995)
Also By the Author
An Encounter With Some Of The First Vietnamese Refugees To Arrive In Hong Kong


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