Onward and upward - HK eye bigger paydays after ACC success
While not exactly counting their chickens, buoyant Hong Kong officials are eagerly looking forward to a bumper payout of US$1 million from the International Cricket Council next year.
To achieve this bonanza, Hong Kong's senior squad, flush from their success at last week's ACC Trophy, were told their next goal would be to advance into the Second Division of the World Cricket League.
'The real money starts pouring in only once we get to the Second Division. We will get US$1 million from the ICC if we achieve this target next May,' said John Cribbin, secretary of the Hong Kong Cricket Association, who is also an ICC representative. 'We have secured our future for now, but there is a lot to play for.'
By reaching the final at the ACC Trophy in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong have been promoted to the WCL's Third Division where they are in the company of seven other teams - the US, Uganda, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, Cayman Islands, Fiji and Italy.
In May 2007, these eight teams will meet in Los Angeles for a tournament to decide which two advance into the lucrative Second Division. The Hong Kong squad, who were feted on Thursday night by the HKCA, were told they should not rest on their laurels. 'This is a great start, but now we have to go forward to the next level,' said Clive Howard, HKCA chairman. 'It won't be easy. We will be up against some good young sides, like Italy, all intent on catching up on teams like us who have a long history.'
The top two sides in Los Angeles will qualify for the Second Division play-off in Namibia in November 2007. They will join the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Namibia and Denmark - all of whom are in this group by virtue of playing at the last ICC Trophy in 2005, which was the final qualifying event for next year's World Cup.
Hong Kong, whose final target is the 2009 ICC Trophy, have successfully embarked on that journey by reaching the ACC Trophy final. The feat was widely acclaimed by relieved HKCA hierarchy.
'We gave you a job to do and by God you did it - even though you gave us a few scares on the way. I say a very big thank you to all of you,' said Terry Smith, HKCA president, in his tribute to the team. 'It was an absolutely wonderful performance and you have enhanced Hong Kong's reputation.'
Smith paid special homage to evergreen Rahul Sharma, 46, whose batting was the cornerstone of Hong Kong's success. 'Those old legs have still got some runs left in them,' joked Smith.
Hong Kong's ACC Trophy result secured the association's annual development grant from the ICC and ACC which runs to HK$3 million.
The SAR, who qualified for the 2008 Asia Cup, are also in line for a payout in the region of HK$2 million when they take part in this event.
'Our financial well-being is assured at the moment. But we have to keep moving on and aim for the big payday,' added Cribbin.