Boost for HK after Asian Games approval
The Hong Kong Cricket Association has been given the go-ahead to field a men's as well as a women's team at the Asian Games in Guangzhou in November.
'We have been granted permission by the Hong Kong Olympic Committee to take part in the Asian Games. This is fabulous news for us and will be a huge boost for the game locally,' Danny Lai, HKCA general manager, said.
Following on from the decision taken this week by the International Cricket Council to award Hong Kong hosting rights for the six-nation ICC World Cricket League Division Three tournament in January, the inclusion in the Asiad comes as the icing on the cake. While the ICC tournament is part of a qualifying process for the 2015 World Cup and will be key towards future funding from the world governing body, the Asian Games will be regarded as the event that can help put cricket on the local map.
'The Asian Games will help us raise the profile of the game locally,' Charlie Burke, Hong Kong head coach, said.
'In the bigger picture, the World Cricket League is important, but as far as publicity and lifting interest locally is concerned, the Asian Games comes first. The [Asiad] will help us widen our base of players. Because of its eligibility rules, it means we will have to fast-track local players.'
Burke will be in charge of both the men's and women's squads at the Asiad, where the Twenty20 version will be played.
He will have Lal Jayasinghe assisting him with the women's team.
'The selectors are due to name a preliminary squad of around 20 players next week for both the men's and women's teams. We will then start training twice a week and playing a lot of practice games, including a number in Guangzhou at the stadium where the Asian Games will be played,' Burke said.
The turf wicket at the purpose-built 12,000-seater Guangzhou Stadium was put in place only last month. Burke hopes that once it settles and is ready, Hong Kong can make frequent visits across the border to play practice matches.
'By the time the Asian Games comes along, we should have home-ground advantage,' Burke said. 'China wants to play a number of practice matches and we have put our hands up and will provide them with opposition. The pitch should be ready by September.'