Youth policy faces first real test in series against Bangladesh
Hong Kong's youth policy faces a big test today when the new-look team take on the Bangladesh National Academy at the Hong Kong Cricket Club in the first of three one-day matches.
Six of the 11 players in the team are teenagers - vice-captain Courtney Kruger, Nadeem and Irfan Ahmed, Aashih Gadia, Waqas Barkat and Zafaran Ali - with new coach Aftab Habib pinning his faith on youth.
The ex-England international has cast aside most of the old baggage and is looking for a fresh start. Of the six teenagers, Gadia, a middle-order batsman, wicketkeeper Barkat and medium-pacer Ali will be representing Hong Kong for the first time at senior level.
'Yes, fresh is the key word,' admitted Hong Kong captain Tabarak Dar. 'It is a new year and a new start for Hong Kong cricket. Hopefully things will get better.'
Things must get better fast, with the squad facing a busy and important schedule in 2008 - the ICC World Cricket League Division Four tournament (a 2011 World Cup qualifier), the Asia Cup (against India and Pakistan) and the ACC Trophy.
Hong Kong had a poor international season last year, finishing seventh in the ICC WCL Division Three tournament in Darwin and being relegated to Division Four, as well as finishing sixth of eight teams at the ACC Twenty20 tournament in Kuwait.
'Our batting was the problem once again as we struggled in foreign conditions. Hopefully we can move on now,' Dar said.
Local cricket was in total disarray last season. They were without regular coach Robin Singh in Darwin - as he was with the Indian test side - and in Kuwait they were without Nadeem and Irfan Ahmed, who were serving disciplinary bans.
The Hong Kong Cricket Association decided to appoint a new coach, based in Hong Kong, and opted for Habib, who has been with the squad for just under four months.
'There are no stars in this side. The team won't have to look at one person to perform. It is a good opportunity for the youngsters to raise their hand and be counted,' Dar said.
Hong Kong: Tabarak Dar (captain), Courtney Kruger (vice-captain), Zain Abbas, Skhawat Ali, Irfan Ahmed, Aashih Gadia, Munir Dar, Jamshaid Khan, Waqas Barkat, Nadeem Ahmed, Zafaran Ali, 12th Man: Nizakat Khan