HK defeat calls for rethink
A humiliating five-wicket loss at the hands of Malaysia in the final of the Tuanku Ja'afar Trophy yesterday should serve as a wake-up call to Hong Kong, according to manager Yarman Vachha.
After beating Malaysia by 46 runs in the preliminary round, Hong Kong's batsmen turned in a below-par performance in the final at the Kallang ground in Singapore - being bowled out for 138 - and conceding the silverware to their arch-rivals.
'Losing is always not nice, but we should take this lesson as a wake-up call before the all-important ACC Trophy next month in Kuala Lumpur when we are likely to come up against teams of the calibre of Malaysia,' said a disappointed Vachha.
Hong Kong's selectors will have to take a long hard look at their selection policy which has seen the recall of veteran Mark Eames after an absence of nearly two seasons from the international arena.
Eames, 45, opened the batting yesterday and hit a painstaking 27 off 89 balls, placing additional pressure on the other batsmen. According to Vachha, Hong Kong's first boundary came in only the 25th over, highlighting the nature of the slow start.
'Mark has done yeoman service for Hong Kong but he is 45 and shouldn't the selectors be looking at giving younger cricketers the chance? By his own admission, Mark says it is difficult to last 50 overs. We had a couple of bad decisions go our way, but that is part of the game. What we didn't do was to score fast enough early in the innings,' said Vachha.
With the dot balls accumulating for Eames, the batsmen at the other end were under pressure to score. The other opener Manoj Cheruparambil and Ravi Sujanani, who came in at the fall of the first wicket, were out cheaply, as Hong Kong slumped to nine for two wickets. Skipper Rahul Sharma was out trying to force the pace for 12 and with his departure Hong Kong's chances of setting a reasonable target vanished after opting to bat first.
It was left to right-hander Ilyas Gul to give Hong Kong a face-saving total. Gul, coming in at number six, hit 50 and the first boundary came off his bat in the 25th over. Tailender Sher Lama scored an unbeaten 27 as Hong Kong were bowled out in the 49th over.
Malaysian skipper Suresh Navaratnam, who took one for 32 with the ball, hit a composed 60 as Malaysia got home in 39 overs for the loss of five wickets. Navaratnam was named man-of-the-match and also man-of-the-series.
Left-arm spinner Najeeb Amar bowled magnificently, conceding only 12 runs off his 10 overs and took two wickets. But the rest of the bowling failed to back him.
Losing the Tuanku Ja'afar Trophy might be a blessing in disguise if Hong Kong learn from their mistakes. New coach Robin Singh would certainly have enough notes to ponder upon before the ACC Trophy, a 2007 World Cup qualifying tournament.
'Robin feels that the players are still lacking in fitness. Our batting showed up today. Apart from Najeeb, our bowling is not disciplined enough. And we have to look at the players selected,' said Vachha.