'Balanced' squad carry HK hopes
After a 10-day tour to Chennai in India to figure out the 14-strong squad, the final piece in the vexed jigsaw that is Hong Kong cricket fell into place yesterday with the selectors announcing the players who will carry the 2011 World Cup qualifying hopes in Kuala Lumpur this month.
As expected, Chennai stayaways Rahul Sharma and Alex French have forced their way into the squad - purely on reputation. The rest of the team, led by captain Tim Smart, does not hold any surprises if performances during the five-game build-up in Chennai are considered.
'It is a very well-balanced team with a lot of depth in all departments,' said Krishna Kumar, chairman of selectors. 'There are a lot of options available for Robin Singh [coach] and Tim [Smart]. I'm very hopeful that we can do well with this squad.'
Kumar is new in his job, having taken over from Mike Walsh at the tail end of last season. So there is still a lot of enthusiasm on his part. Hopefully his fresh zeal will be vindicated - especially by Hong Kong's batsmen - by the end of the ACC Trophy in Kuala Lumpur from August 14-26.
Batting, or the lack of it, has been Hong Kong's downfall in the past season. The SAR finished right at the bottom of the five-country fast-track tournament last time and have struggled at international one-day tournaments recently.
But the inclusion of hard-hitting batsman Hussain Butt (pictured) to the squad might just turn things around.
Butt was one of the success stories in the batting department in Chennai - the others being skipper Smart and youngster Courtney Kruger - even though Hong Kong lost four of the five matches.
'Even though we lost, we benefited hugely as we played on grass tracks which highlighted the weaknesses in our batting techniques. But in the end we got a lot of match practice and got acclimatised somewhat,' said Lal Jayasinghe, Hong Kong cricket's coaching co-ordinator.
Hong Kong are grouped with Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal and Kuwait in the preliminary round of the 17-team tournament.
Hong Kong have to finish in the top three to qualify for the next round of World Cup qualifying.
Hong Kong squad: Tim Smart (captain), Tabarak Dar (vice-captain), Afzaal Haider, Alex French, Hussain Butt, Courtney Kruger, Ilyas Gull, Irfan Ahmed, Jawaid Iqbal, Khalid Khan, Nadeem Ahmed, Najeeb Amar, Rahul Sharma, Amjad Mahmood. Non-travelling reserves: Graeme Jardine, Ghulam Mustafa, Jamshaid Khan, Shkawat Ali.