ICC needs HK team in elite event, says coach
Hong Kong head coach Charlie Burke has called on the International Cricket Council to pick his team for the Intercontinental Cup and to play all the home games at the Guangzhou stadium built for the sport at the Asian Games last year.
By finishing in the top four at the ICC World Cricket League Division Two tournament in Dubai, Hong Kong are eligible to become one of two teams joining six countries from division one in the Intercontinental Cup (four-day matches played on a home-and-away basis).
Burke is pushing for Hong Kong's inclusion saying it would help 'grow the game in China' and has called for the ICC development committee to put the side in the competition.
'If the ICC is serious about growing the game in China, this would be a superb opportunity to showcase cricket by including Hong Kong in the Intercontinental Cup,' Burke said. 'We could play all our home games in Guangzhou, a superb facility which is available to us. The ICC would benefit hugely by having four-day games in China.'
An ICC spokesman said: 'It is too early to say which two teams the ICC development committee will pick. They will take into careful consideration the performances of all four teams at this tournament before picking the two who will join the six division one teams in the Intercontinental Cup.'
Two teams from division two -not necessarily top two United Arab Emirates and Namibia- will join the associate member fraternity of Afghanistan, Ireland, Canada, the Netherlands, Kenya and Scotland at the event.
The UAE are expected to be a certainty. Apart from their credentials in the sport, they are also the host nation where the world governing body is headquartered. The facilities in Dubai, which includes a 25,000-seat stadium plus two lush grounds at the ICC Global Cricket Academy, are tailor-made for international events.
The other spot is up for grabs with Namibia, Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong in the running. The ICC's development committee will make a decision early next month.
'I would like to think that Hong Kong is in with a chance. Yes, we won only one game in this tournament, but we were not blown away,' Burke said. 'We were in positions to beat both the UAE and Namibia and also came close against Bermuda and PNG. I hope they consider that rather than just look at the results.
'We are also a young team and this should be taken into account. But the main factor which should benefit us is that the ICC is looking at expanding the game in China and this will be a wonderful opportunity to promote cricket in China.'
In the last match of the division two tournament, Papua New Guinea hammered Hong Kong to win the third place play-off. Chasing a target of 226, Hong Kong was bowled out for 98 in just 26 overs. Hong Kong seemed keen to go home having accomplished the target of becoming an ICC high-performance country.
Captain Najeeb Amar lost the toss and PNG bat first. Half centuries from Asad Vala and Vani Morea allowed PNG to reach 225 for six. Hong Kong's bowling looked toothless with only Nizakat Khan showing bite with two for 37. Munir Dar bowled tightly, giving away 24 runs from 10 overs including a wicket, while the other wickets fell to Max Tucker, Irfan Ahmed and Najeeb.
Over the past year, Hong Kong progressed from division three to division two -a berth they will occupy for the next three years at least. This will translate into more than US$1 million in ICC grants with high-performance countries funded US$350,000 annually.
'All in all it has been a success. We came here to finish in the top four and we have achieved that goal,' Burke said. 'We have made our own luck. We have worked hard ... and I'm glad that we will now benefit financially ... We didn't want to step back ... but this is just the beginning.'