HK's tour of Pakistan highlights need for batsmen

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 May, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong coach Aftab Habib admitted the value of experience yesterday after his young side tumbled to another crushing defeat - the fourth in a row - on their training tour of Pakistan.

A strong Faisalabad Region XI romped to a seven-wicket victory over Hong Kong. The tourists have lost their other matches by eight wickets, 125 runs and 175 runs.

Habib has conceded Hong Kong will need to draft in a few more experienced players for next month's Asia Cup in Pakistan and for the ACC Trophy in Kuala Lumpur this summer.

'I was not too worried about results on this training trip as I knew we would be up against superior opposition. This trip was to see where we are and I have realised that we are lacking experience,' said Habib.

'Most of the young guys here will be better players one or two years down the line. Hopefully the next time we come here [for the Asia Cup], more senior players will be available,' Habib said.

The majority of the 15-strong squad on the 10-day tour are youngsters, in keeping with Habib's approach to blood younger players into the national side. But they have come up short against some top-class opposition.

Against Faisalabad, Hong Kong were bowled out for 105 in 43 overs with only veteran Jawaid Iqbal managing to get among the runs with a gritty 25. The home team knocked off the runs for the loss of three wickets.

'Once again our batting was the problem. Our top order failed. You need to get a score to be competitive and our bowlers did well. But the batsmen have been the downfall,' Habib said.

If it is any consolation for him - he has been in the job for less than a year - batting has always been Hong Kong's Achilles' heel. Even under the tenure of previous coaches Robin Singh and Lal Jayasinghe, Hong Kong have struggled in this department.

Habib said: 'Batting is a confidence thing. You need to do well in just one innings and things will hopefully turn around for you. But we have been lacking experience. While I will persevere with some of the players in this squad, a few others are not ready yet.'

In four games, Hong Kong batsmen have only scored one century (captain Tabarak Dar) and a half-century (Irfan Ahmed), which is a poor return from 44 visits to the crease.

'Unfortunately things haven't worked out quite the way I wanted them to. But I remain positive. This trip has opened my eyes and been a good exercise for all of us. I need to sit down with the selectors and we have a lot of thinking to do,' Habib said.

Hong Kong have a busy schedule coming up. Apart from the Asia Cup - where they are drawn with giants India and Pakistan - and the ACC Trophy, Habib will also have to prepare the squad for the ICC World Cricket League Division Four competition, which is a World Cup qualifier, as well as a Twenty20 qualifying tournament for the Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010.

While the lack of experience among the younger players was given as a reason for the poor showing in Pakistan, Habib also said a few of the more experienced players in the team had failed to deliver: 'Although the results don't show it, only some of the senior players have shown their worth in the squad.'

Hong Kong have one more game, against Punjab University, before they return home.