Cameo role for China at the Sixes
Pink balls, the debut appearance by China and the opening up of India's massive market of cricket-crazy fans will ensure the long-term future of the popular Hong Kong Sixes, organisers revealed yesterday.
While the eight-team draw yesterday for the Karp Group & PC Jeweller Hong Kong Sixes unveiled the usual suspects, the fact that China will make a guest appearance at the November 6-7 tournament will go a long way to guaranteeing its future.
'The International Cricket Council has big plans for China and they want to leverage and use Hong Kong as the gateway into the mainland. Inviting China for the Sixes is a first step and will be a huge development for the game,' Hong Kong Cricket Association president Shahzada Saleem said.
China, who will bring its Asian Games squad, will not take part in the tournament proper at the Kowloon Cricket Club. Instead, they will play an exhibition match against a Hong Kong development squad during the tournament and figure in a Twenty20 game on the eve of the Sixes.
'China can only benefit from the exposure at the Sixes. They will be rubbing shoulders with players from test-playing nations like England, Australia and India. Their presence will also help raise the profile of cricket in the Hong Kong community,' Saleem said
China's Pakistani coach, Rashid Khan, said: 'We are really excited at the opportunity of appearing at the Hong Kong Sixes. This will be a huge experience for the guys and one which should help them as they prepare for the Asian Games.'
While the US$150,000 prize money at the two-day event will be fought over by regular visitors Australia, England, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan - along with Hong Kong - organisers believe the day is not too far off when China can compete.
'If China continues to develop rapidly, we are most likely to see them play in the tournament one day,' HKCA chairman Dinesh Tandon said. 'This is just the first step and we want to give them a flavour of playing in an international tournament.'
The two-day tournament, which will be shown live to millions of viewers on the Indian subcontinent, will also use a pink ball.
'The ICC has been trying it out, but this will be the first time pink balls will be used in a televised international event,' tournament director Glyn Davies said. 'These balls will not only help the players, but it will also benefit the viewers who will be able to see the ball more clearly.'
Organisers also unveiled Jet Airways as the official carrier for the tournament, and are hopeful India's second-largest airline will open the door for more fans to attend the Sixes.
'Bringing in tourists has always been one of our major goals,' Tandon said. 'I know the Hong Kong Sixes is hugely popular in India and on the subcontinent and by partnering with them, we can now offer the fans an easy way to arrive in Hong Kong.'
Tickets will go on sale today at the Hong Kong Cricket Club and KCC as well as on HKTicketing. An adult ticket for the weekend is HK$730, while a child's ticket is HK$380. Tickets can also be bought separately for Saturday and Sunday.
Bradman Group: Australia, England, South Africa, Hong Kong.
Sobers Group: New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan.