Beating Bangladesh is key to HK's hopes at Asia Cup
Hong Kong face a Herculean task first up at the Asia Cup this summer - Pakistan in the opening match of the six-team tournament and the prospect of demon fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar or big-hitting batsman Inzamam Ul-Haq.
Despite this daunting task, Hong Kong's weekend cricketers are happy about the draw which includes Bangladesh as the third team in the preliminary round group for the July 11-August 1 tournament in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
'Relatively, we have drawn the easier of the two groups,' said Hong Kong captain Rahul Sharma. 'On our day, I believe we have a fair chance against Bangladesh. We will definitely be competitive and beating them is not an impossible dream.'
The other group comprises last year's World Cup finalists India, hosts Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates, who like Hong Kong qualified to play against the Test-playing nations at the 2000 Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Trophy in Sharjah.
'Hong Kong will be a much stronger outfit this time and we are confident we can give Bangladesh a run for their money. We are lucky to have drawn the weakest of the four Asian Test sides,' said Danny Lai, Hong Kong Cricket Association general manager.
Hong Kong will meet Pakistan on July 12, the opening day of the competition, and will then come up against Bangladesh two days later. The top two teams from each group move on to the second phase from where the finalists will be decided.
'Either our tournament could last three days or we could be in Colombo for about 10 days,' said Sharma. 'But whatever happens, we aim to be competitive.
'It will be a huge ask from the guys but we should take heart from he fact we are drawn against Bangladesh. We have come close to beating them twice before. We must believe we can win.'
Meanwhile, the 2004 ACC Trophy, which was scheduled to be played in July in Kuala Lumpur just before the Asia Cup, has now been moved forward to June 12-22.
'It was pointed out that if Hong Kong and the UAE made it to the finals of the ACC Trophy, they would not be able to get to Colombo in time for the start of the Asia Cup,' said Lai.
The winners and the runners-up at the ACC Trophy qualify directly for the 2005 ICC Trophy, which in turn is a qualifying event for the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies. A record 16 teams will take part in the ACC Trophy.
Hong Kong are grouped with Bahrain, Oman and Afghanistan in Group C. The top two teams advance into the second round. If Hong Kong win the pool, they will meet the runners-up from Group D (Nepal, Bhutan, Brunei and Iran) to decide who goes into the semi-finals.
'I believe we can win this tournament,' said Sharma. 'Our chances are extremely high this time. Our preliminary pool is relatively easy and our quarter-final game should also be easy.'
The dates for this year's regional Tuanku Ja'afar Trophy have been fixed for May 12-16. Singapore will host the annual event that also includes holders Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand.