HK to sharpen up for ICC challenge on Sri Lanka trip
Hong Kong will make a week-long trip to Sri Lanka early next month as the build-up to the ICC World Cricket League Division Three tournament gathers momentum.
Rumesh Ratnayake, the Asian Cricket Council's regional development officer, has arranged an intensive itinerary where the 18-strong squad led by Najeeb Amar will come up against strong opposition and, more importantly, play on turf wickets in Colombo during the January 3-9 stay.
'We will be playing three matches and also have two training days,' said Hong Kong coach Charlie Burke.
'The purpose is to get together as a group and get away from the daily distractions of Hong Kong. We will also name the final squad for the World Cricket League after the tour.'
Hong Kong will host the January 22-29 limited overs tournament, a preliminary qualifying event for the 2015 World Cup, which will also include Denmark, Oman, Papua New Guinea, United States and Italy.
Matches will be played at Kowloon Cricket Club, Hong Kong Cricket Club, Mission Road and the Guangdong University of Technology Cricket Stadium in Guangzhou.
The Sri Lanka visit will be crucial for those hoping to stake a claim, and especially for vice-captain Courtney Kruger, who is being looked upon as the person to take over the captaincy from Najeeb in the future.
'We have a squad of 18 players but must trim to 14 straight after Sri Lanka,' Burke said. 'We genuinely only have nine certain to be selected. The other nine will be playing and training for the final five spots.'
Burke added: 'Jamie Atkinson is unavailable due to studies in UK while Ilyas Gull has been omitted for form and injury. Courtney will be going as vice-captain as selectors are looking for the successor to Najeeb.'
The squad have been training hard on the newly-laid turf wickets at Mission Road, which has been a plus, according to Burke. He said: 'I sense this side is getting tough and is beginning to understand game plans.'
Hong Kong will need to be at their best if they are to finish in the top two and qualify for the Division Two tournament in the United Arab Emirates in April. The third and fourth-placed teams will stay in Division Three, while the two bottom-placed sides will be demoted to Division Four.
Hong Kong squad: Najeeb Amar (captain), Courtney Kruger (vice-captain), Nadeem Ahmed, Irfan Ahmed, Waqas Barkat, Tabarak Dar, Hussain Butt, Asif Khan, Roy Lamsam, Nizakat Khan, Niaz Ali, Mark Chapman, Adil Mehmood, Aizaz Khan, Ashish Gadhia, Shakeel Huq, Munir Dar, Nick Lau.