HK commit to Pakistan tournament

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 March, 2008, 12:00am

Chance to compete at Asia Cup too good to give up despite recent deadly bomb blasts

Top official Clive Howard promised Hong Kong would take part in the Asia Cup in Pakistan in June, but hoped the security situation in the country would drastically improve by then.

'We are ready to go to the Asia Cup as long as it is on,' said Howard, chairman of the Hong Kong Cricket Association. 'Of course the security situation is a worry, but the tournament is still some time away and I hope circumstances will get better by then.'

Pakistan cricket officials will be keen to press ahead with the Asia Cup now that Australia have postponed their tour over worries surrounding the worsening security conditions in the country.

Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Nasim Ashraf confirmed yesterday that the Asia Cup would go ahead as planned with neighbours India and Sri Lanka pledging their support.

'We are very confident our cricket will continue,' said Ashraf. 'The Asia Cup is very much on towards the end of June. Arjuna Ranatunga [the Sri Lanka Cricket chairman] and the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) will be here soon to finalise plans for that.'

Howard (pictured) said the HKCA would be solely guided by the decisions the ACC took. Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates qualified for the tournament, and Howard believed it was prudent to follow the dictates of the bigger test-playing nations.

'We will follow whatever decision the Asian Cricket Council takes. And as far as I know, the ACC is keen that the Asia Cup goes ahead in Pakistan and we will honour that commitment,' said Howard.

Hong Kong also stands to gain financially from participating in the Asia Cup. When Hong Kong took part in the 2004 Asia Cup in Colombo, the HKCA received US$300,000 from the ACC. They are likely to get more this time, especially with increased revenues from television and sponsorship.

Hours before Cricket Australia made its decision on Tuesday, two suicide blasts in Lahore killed 20 people. The Lahore blasts were the latest in a string of suicide attacks across the country, which has been wracked by political unrest since the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto last year.

'I was in Pakistan when that happened,' said Tabarak Dar, who captained Hong Kong when the Bangladesh Academy played here during the Lunar New Year. 'Life goes on despite all these bombings which are against specific targets. I don't think visiting sports teams will be harmed.

'As far as the cricketers are concerned, I'm certain everyone will want to go. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all of us and a dream to play one-day internationals against the big boys,' Dar added.

Hong Kong are drawn with India and Pakistan in one pool at the Asia Cup, while the other pool comprises Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates.