Playing Competitive Cricket

We all know the life of a lawyer is not the easiest: long hours, late night calls (especially in Asia), high pressure to perform, the list goes on. Added to that the pressures of having something of a personal life – time with your spouse and friends, social engagements and so on – it seems that making time for competitive sport seems impossible, or at least ought to come fairly low down one’s list of priorities.

This was broadly my attitude until I recently returned to playing competitive cricket.

Growing up in sunny Sri Lanka, the cricket indoctrination was swift and uncompromising. I grew up playing first XI cricket in school and, later, at university in the UK. Cricket then took a backstep once I joined the working world and came to terms with the life of a lawyer. There was simply never enough hours in the day for anything, let alone competitive sport.

That all changed when I was, to my surprise, selected through trials to play for the Hong Kong Cricket Club (HKCC).

The Hong Kong Cricket Club

The readership will be well aware of the HKCC. Established in 1851, the club is truly a unique space, surrounded by the hills and greenery of Wong Nai Chung Gap, and boasts a thriving community of Hong Kongers and expats alike. A wonderful space especially for families with young kids, who get to run around one of the most beautiful cricket grounds I have come across in my time as if it were their back garden (please keep your kids off the wicket!).

For those cricket enthusiasts out there, the HKCC runs cricket trials in August every year to recruit new talent for the upcoming season. It's a great entrance into the club – not least because if you are selected through the trials you get to skip the six-year waiting list! The competition is stiff as a result, but the results hugely rewarding. The clubhouse itself is state of the art having undergone refurbishment this year: with a 25 metre swimming pool, tennis courts, squash courts, basketball / netball courts, a bowling alley, golf simulator, and a whole array of very reasonably priced restaurants and bars in which to while away your evenings.

HKCC has several teams participating in the Hong Kong cricket leagues: the Premier League (which is the top flight of cricket in Hong Kong), Division 1 and Division 2. I have been lucky to play for two HKCC teams: the table-topping HKCC ‘Gap Ramblers’ (winners of the Division 1 league for 3-years running; hopefully four!) and the HKCC ‘Optimists’ who, true to their name, are optimistic of a top 3 finish in Division 2 this season.

Balancing competitive cricket with a lawyer’s life

The balance is not easy, that’s for sure. Given the competition for places in the teams, people take training pretty seriously, with the club organising training sessions every Tuesday and Thursday from 7.30 pm – 9 pm. If you are picked to play for your team, there is then likely a game on the Saturday or the Sunday of most weekends (or when particularly unlucky, a ‘double-header’ weekend where you are playing cricket both Saturday and Sunday – not a fan favourite of the long suffering other halves).

Most lawyers reading this will laugh at the idea of being able to make training at 7.30 pm twice a week. Granted, twice a week is a stretch; but to my surprise, managing it to training at least once a week is not as insurmountable as one would expect. The real advantage for Hong Kong over other large cities (like London or New York) is its compactness and accessibility. It is pretty easy to finish work around 7.15 pm, jump in a taxi and be at training for 7.30 pm. With your weekly training done, it is easy enough to be home or back in the office by 9.30 pm to finish off those remaining tasks for the day (or in my case, take calls with clients based in the United States!).

Why bother

Whilst the balance is certainly a challenge at the best of times, I believe it is fully worth it.

I think it is very important for us lawyers to have something we do – to some serious degree – outside of work. Doing something different to ‘lawyering’ at an equally intense level often requires your brain to engage in a different way to what it is used to. My personal experience is that engaging your brain in this different way really recharges it in a way that ends up actually improving the lawyering side of your brain. I feel this is particularly true for those of us on the more senior end of the job where the job’s demands have evolved from the more formulaic labour intensive tasks we did when starting out our careers, to less time-consuming but more cerebral-heavy tasks which require careful thought (in my case, really thinking hard about my cases in order to find a way to achieve our clients’ goals).

In this day and age where mental health is finally being taken more seriously by the legal fraternity, having an outlet such as this from the stress and intensity of a lawyer’s job can really help build resilience – a much needed trait in a world that seems to be getting faster and more demanding by the year.

It is also a useful way to meet new people, who can become friends in your personal lives, but also valuable contacts for that all-important network. The club is teaming with young and older professionals, all of whom are friendly and approachable and, as it so happens, are just as hard working and have the same dreams as you. They make a handy support group to begin with, and (perhaps cynically!) are also a potential client pool for those more entrepreneurial amongst you.

I think I will leave this piece with just a small aim: if reading this can convince you to take up that old hobby you haven’t tried for a while because you are simply ‘too busy’, try it – I think you’ll thank yourself. You can buy me a beer later. 

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Senior Associate (Registered Foreign Lawyer), Allen & Overy

Manthi Wickramasooriya is a Senior Associate (Registered Foreign Lawyer) at Allen & Overy. He specialises in international arbitration, having represented clients in high value arbitrations ($1 billion+) conducted under most of the major arbitral rules, including as an advocate, as well as in High Court and Appeal Court litigation in England & Wales. Manthi relocated to Hong Kong in 2018 from London where he was a Senior Associate at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.