ACC success has whetted HK's appetite, says Habib
The bar has been raised and expectations are high - now that Hong Kong are officially ranked as the top associate member side in Asia after their triumphant run at the ACC Trophy in Kuala Lumpur last month.
The next goal is to finish in the top two at the ICC World Cricket League division four tournament in Tanzania next month.
'The ACC Trophy is history. We won it and it was great. But that victory over the United Arab Emirates has resulted in everyone expecting us to do well now,' Hong Kong coach Aftab Habib said. 'There is more pressure on us. The ACC Trophy is over, my goal now is to get Hong Kong into the third division in the ICC World Cricket League and closer to the 2011 World Cup,' he said.
The 14-strong squad, who will travel to Dar-es-Salaam later this month, will first go on a 10-day training trip to Colombo, Sri Lanka.
They leave on Tuesday to play four games against a Sri Lankan development squad and undergo intensive training.
'This is going to be a crucial trip. We have found out that going away on a tour before a big tournament is beneficial. The players are focused on their game, more so than if they were preparing in Hong Kong.' Habib said.
The Hong Kong governing body has more money than in the past, and is able to fund the training tours. A similar 10-day trip to Pakistan before the Asia Cup and the ACC Trophy paid dividends.
The higher Hong Kong go up the ladder in terms of world cricket, the richer the monetary benefits will be from the International Cricket Council and the Asian Cricket Council.
The ICC announced in July it would allocate US$300 million to its 30 associate members and 60 affiliate members over a seven-year period beginning next year. This roughly translates to more than US$40 million per year.
Hong Kong, who received US$90,000 from the ICC this year, will see their share increase to US$160,000 next year. They can also get an additional US$175,000 from the ICC's capital or development fund. With the Asian governing body, the ACC, also giving an annual grant of US$60,000, the Hong Kong Cricket Association is flush with cash.
But HKCA officials know the real money is if Hong Kong are ranked in the top eight-12 associate members in the world - those who will play in the ICC Trophy which is the final qualifier for the 2011 World Cup. Countries like Ireland, Scotland, and the Netherlands get huge amounts of money as the ICC pushes the development of the game in these nations.
Hong Kong can only aspire to be in that company. The Tanzania trip is a step in that direction. If they finish in the top two - the opposition includes Afghanistan, Italy, Fiji, Jersey and Tanzania - they will advance into division three next January in Argentina. If they finish in the top two, they qualify for a spot in the ICC Trophy next year.