Hong Kong not ready to turn pro, says Habib

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 July, 2008, 12:00am

Coach Aftab Habib believes Hong Kong is not ready to go professional, but has asked the ACC Trophy-bound squad to deliver the goods and make a case for themselves if they harboured hopes of getting paid to play one day.

Local cricket got a shot in the arm when it was announced that the International Cricket Council will raise the ante and provide more money for the 34 associate members annually. Hong Kong can get almost US$350,000 annually from the ICC.

But while welcoming the news that the ICC had a US$300 million pie which they would use over the next seven years for the development of the game worldwide, Habib said Hong Kong was not ready to go professional.

'The players should play for pride and the honour to represent Hong Kong. But if they do really well, like winning this tournament, then perhaps they should deserve a little bit of money,' said Habib (pictured) yesterday.

A 14-strong squad captained by Tabarak Dar, will leave for Kuala Lumpur today to take part in the 10-team ACC Trophy. Hong Kong will play three warm-up matches before the July 25 to August 3 tournament gets underway.

'To be professional, we must have the facilities. Unfortunately Hong Kong is not like the UAE or Malaysia where there are enough turf wickets and grounds,' Habib said.

'You have to be realistic about turning professional with our shortage of grounds.'

'My role here is to coach. It is up to the HKCA to decide how the money should be spent. But I believe our first priority should be to get more facilities,' he added.

There has been talk in the players' circle that they deserve a slice of the ICC funds. 'We sacrifice a lot in terms of taking time off work and while we are proud to play for Hong Kong, it would be nice to get some compensation from the association. Now that they have the money, it would be good if we were to get a little bit,' said one player who wished to remain anonymous.

HKCA secretary John Cribbin said the executive committee would meet next week to decide on how the extra funds should be put to use.

Habib said the team should 'do its talking on the pitch'. He said: 'They have got an opportunity to go out and do well. It must be all about pride and the honour to play for Hong Kong.

'The guys need to realise this. Most cricketers the world over never get the chance to represent their country at all.'

Hong Kong will play two warm-up matches against the Malaysian national team and one against a club side before their first game in the ACC Trophy against Nepal next Friday.

'The warm-up games are crucial as we have not had much match practice due to the weather,' Habib said. 'It is going to be tough as there are no walkover teams in the tournament. But I have a good feeling and if we play smart cricket, there is no reason why we cannot win the ACC Trophy.'