Reformed Irfan gets second chance

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 November, 2011, 12:00am


Irfan Ahmed is set to make a comeback into the Hong Kong squad bound for the Asian Cricket Council Twenty20 Cup in Nepal next month.

Irfan, who was dropped from last week's Hong Kong Sixes on disciplinary grounds, is back working hard with the squad, and Hong Kong coach Charlie Burke believes the selectors will pick the talented all-rounder for the 14-strong team who will leave for Mumbai on November 25 for a week's training before going on to Kathmandu for the December 1-11 tournament.

'There has been a complete turnaround in Irfan's attitude and he is training really well with the squad,' Burke said yesterday. 'He has even been to extra training sessions.'

Player of the Tournament at the 2009 Sixes, Irfan (pictured) was dropped this year after failing to turn up for practices. Despite his absence, Hong Kong reached the semi-finals, losing to eventual champions Pakistan.

It will be the start of a new era for Hong Kong with long-standing captain Najeeb Amar having stepped down and veteran Hussain Butt unavailable for selection. The team will be captained by Jamie Atkinson, 21, with teenager Nizakat Khan as his deputy, and they will share the responsibility of leading Hong Kong into the 16-team ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers in Dubai next year.

'It will be an interesting challenge considering the huge changes we are going through,' said Burke, who along with batting coach Lou Vincent will take the squad to Mumbai.

In Kathmandu, Hong Kong are grouped with Afghanistan, Oman, Kuwait and the Maldives. The other pool has the United Arab Emirates, Nepal, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Bhutan. The event is an Asian qualifier for Dubai.

'Our aim will be to make it into the semi-finals presuming Afghanistan, the top seeds, also finish in the last four,' Burke said. 'It is not an easy group as both Oman and Kuwait can be tricky, but I'm confident we are more than capable.'