Ahmed rewarded with Sixes call-up
Teenager Irfan Ahmed's odyssey continued at full steam when he was called up by Hong Kong for this month's Cathay Pacific/Standard Chartered International Sixes.
Ahmed, who leaves today with the senior squad for this weekend's ACC Fast Track Countries Tournament match against Singapore, will be the youngest player to represent Hong Kong at the Sixes. 'He is only 16 and this will be a huge fillip to all youngsters. If they perform, they will be rewarded,' said Mike Walsh, Hong Kong Cricket Association's chairman of selectors.
Ahmed, an exciting all-rounder, made his senior debut last season in the fast track tournament and has since become a regular. He was also one of two Hong Kong players picked for an under-16 Asian XI to play matches in Pakistan. And now to cap it all off, he will rub shoulders with the stars in his first Hong Kong Sixes on October 22-23 at the Kowloon Cricket Club.
Ahmed and Phil DeFreitas have been called up as replacements for Robin Singh and Hussain Butt who both pulled out of the original seven-strong squad - Singh as he has been picked for India at the Sixes, and Butt going back home to chase his dream of playing for Pakistan.
'We decided to include DeFreitas as he would offer experience to the side. He is looking forward to the tournament,' said Walsh.
DeFreitas, an ex-England test and one-day player, is due to arrive on Monday to coach and play for the Hong Kong Cricket Club this season. While DeFreitas's selection is debatable, there is no question about the merits of Ahmed.
The selectors seemed to have an eye on the future too when they named the 13-strong SAR team to meet Singapore in the last ACC FTCT game this season. Five are under-20 - Ahmed, his elder brother Nadeem, Khuram Shahzad, Moazzam Ayub and Skhawat Ali. Three others - Roy Lamsam, Manoj Cheruparambil and Adam Gunthorpe are in their early 20s.
'This is a great opportunity to expose the younger guys to three-day cricket. But while we have an eye on the future, we are also obviously keen to win this game,' said captain Tim Smart.
Hong Kong have failed to qualify for the preliminary stages of the ICC Intercontinental Cup this season after losing to the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia and drawing against Nepal. Only pride is at stake in the game against Singapore, which starts tomorrow.
Hong Kong FTCT squad: Tim Smart (captain), Afzaal Haider, Ilyas Gull, Nasir Hameed, Adam Gunthorpe, Roy Lamsam, Manoj Cheruparambil, Tabarak Dar, Khuram Shahzad, Irfan Ahmed, Nadeem Ahmed, Skhawat Ali, Moazzam Ayub.