Visa glitch in Dubai robs HK of star player
Angry Hong Kong officials have queried if Dubai is capable of hosting an international event after Munir Dar was refused a visa to play in the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division Two tournament on the grounds that he is on an immigration blacklist.
All-rounder Dar, who was expected to join the squad in time for yesterday's make-or-break game against the hosts UAE, was left kicking his heels at home after UAE cricket officials informed Hong Kong at the 11th hour that Dar - or someone with the same name - was persona non grata in the country which headquarters world cricket's governing body.
'I think we have been treated unfairly right along. I don't think Dubai should host international tournaments if they cannot sort out visas for players,' said Danny Lai, Hong Kong Cricket Association general manager.
'We have been trying to sort out passports and visas for one month before the tournament began, and we are still faced with problems which apparently keep cropping up,' Lai said.
Top UAE cricket official Mazhar Khan said their hands were tied. 'There is a process we have to follow and he has had to re-apply. It will take time,' he said.
But the HKCA remained disappointed. 'We have written to the ICC asking them for help. It is really disappointing as his passport was submitted last month for a visa,' Lai said.
His absence proved costly as Hong Kong slipped to a 19-run loss at the hands of UAE, but not before the baby of the side, Mark Chapman, showed his elders a lesson in the art of batting - stroking a superb 81 in Hong Kong's chase of 228 for victory.
Chapman made his highest score for Hong Kong, and it could easily have been a century if not for a poor call by skipper Najeeb Amar which ended in the teenage left-hander being run-out.
Chapman's dismissal followed a shocking leg before decision that claimed Irfan Ahmed (36), and those two wickets were the turning point in a match Hong Kong could have won easily. Having restricted UAE to 227 for nine, Hong Kong were well in with a chance of stealing a win but were out for 208.
'That costly run-out and a poor umpiring decision cost us the game,' said coach Charlie Burke. 'But today, a 16-year-old [Chapman] showed if you apply yourself and don't panic, how easy cricket can be.'
Hong Kong will have to defeat Papua New Guinea today if they are to harbour any hopes of finishing in the top four.
Dar, whose big hitting has been missed, could have played an important role yesterday. But he was at home.
The UAE cricket board had to apply for visas for all players taking part in the six-team tournament. The slow processing and numerous obstacles Hong Kong had faced have now raised questions whether it was deliberate attempt to weaken them.
'We gave the UAE [cricket board] all passports copies as they have to apply visas for us, we can't apply from Hong Kong, one month before the tournament but did not hear anything until two weeks before our departure that the Pakistani-born players in the team needed new passports,' Lai said.
The Hong Kong management flew the players to Karachi and got new passports in two days. After further delays from UAE all the players except Dar were granted visas.