Hill selected for Philippines national team
PLAYING cricket on dirt pitches covered with mats in sweltering, humid conditions is a far cry from the setting at Sanctuary Point Oval, but it is something Jonathan Hill cannot wait to do again.
The Bay and Basin first grade captain will be shortly be swapping his usual club colours for those of the Philippines national team.
Some cricket fanatics may not have been aware the Philippines even had a cricket team, but the development of the sport in the country is something Hill is very passionate about.
Hill, who qualifies to represent the Philippines by his mother’s birth, first looked into playing for them on the back of their qualifiers for the 2012 Twenty20 World Cup.
He needed a Filipino passport to qualify to play for them, which was organised while he was there playing in their Twenty20 premier league in 2012.
Hill made his international debut against Hong Kong A last year and is looking at heading back over shortly to play in their inaugural 50-over competition.
This is in preparation for an East-Asia Pacific tournament, which is being held in Lismore later this year and Hill will need to play a minimum of three domestic games to be a part of the squad.
For Hill, who is a self-confessed cricket tragic the chance to play the game at national level is too good to pass up.
“It’s an opportunity to play the game I love and to represent my country is a massive privilege,” he said.
“I was always well aware of my Filipino heritage but I hadn’t actually visited there before this, so it’s great to have had the opportunity to do it through cricket,” he added.
The Philippines national squad is made up almost entirely of Indian and Pakistani expats and Hill is the only overseas-based player in the squad.
Interestingly, there is actually another Australian in the team, who works in Manila as a journalist and has lived there long to qualify on residency grounds.
Cricket is still very much in the developmental stages in the country and Hill said getting the native Filipinos into the sport is something they are working on with coaching sessions with kids.
“To see their enthusiasm for this brand new game was just amazing,” he said.
“Cricket is still developing, but they have a natural love of sport.
“Basketball is huge and what we’re trying to do now is transfer that level of interest into cricket.”
So how does the local competition in Manila stack up against cricket in the Shoalhaven?
“In terms of in Manila, it wouldn’t be up to the standard of first grade here,” Hill said.
“But in terms of the international matches, the standard would easily be the same as Sydney First Grade,” he added.
Hill thought the success of the national team held the key to growing the game in the Philippines, especially among the locals.
He said qualifying for a major international competition is definitely a goal, but is realistically at least a decade down the track.
“I think it’s definitely possible ... If you look at Afghanistan, they’ve used cricket as a means of helping a war-torn country.
“They will play in next year’s World Cup and something similar could happen in the Philippines.
“They’re a country that idolise their sporting heroes and the boxer Manny Pacquiao is a great example.
“If the national team has a bit of success, who knows, people might stand up and take notice.”