Big guns hold no fear for Hong Kong
Hong Kong coach Charlie Burke promised to 'leave no stone unturned' after the national team found themselves in the company of heavyweights Afghanistan and the Netherlands for the ICC World Twenty20 qualifier in March.
Afghanistan were at the last World Twenty20 in the Caribbean and, along with the Netherlands, Ireland and Kenya, are among the favourites to grab the two berths available for associate members at next summer's showpiece in Sri Lanka.
'I have never been so excited at what could happen,' Burke said. 'We will leave no stone unturned and it's now time for the players to work hard and be as disciplined as ever because Hong Kong have never been in a position to play in a world cup at senior level before.'
The International Cricket Council, which announced the schedule for the 16-team tournament in the United Arab Emirates from March 13-24, had earlier cut down the number of associate countries in the World Twenty20 from six to two, thus making Hong Kong's job of qualifying much harder.
Hong Kong are grouped with Afghanistan, the Netherlands, Canada, Papua New Guinea, Bermuda, Denmark and Nepal in pool A.
The other pool comprises Ireland, Kenya, Scotland, Namibia, Uganda, Oman, Italy and the United States.
'We are happy with the groups as we have showed we can match it with Afghanistan and Nepal,' Burke said. 'We have also showed we can beat Papua New Guinea and Denmark.
'The Netherlands will be tough as they are a very professional and aggressive side with some key batsmen. We had a great battle with Bermuda in 50-overs so we believe we can be very competitive on our day.'
Hong Kong lost to Afghanistan in the final of the Asian Cricket Council Twenty20 tournament this month in Nepal. In recent months, they defeated Papua New Guinea and Denmark in the ICC World Cricket League.
Burke said a lot of hard work would need to be done in the next few months and that Hong Kong would have to improve on their performances in Nepal if they were to make a strong bid for a place among the big boys of world cricket.
'We will need to be 20 per cent better than what we were in Nepal. This will call for a lot of hard work from the squad and the coaching staff, as well as a lot of support from the Hong Kong Cricket Association,' Burke said.
Association chairman Dinesh Tandon said: 'I am confident Charlie and the boys will give it their best shot in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and with a bit of luck who knows what can happen.
'A lot of hard work has been put in by the team already and, in spite of us being an amateur side, the level of commitment has been tremendous. We are a young side and participating in this qualifying tournament can only enhance their experience. This will be a huge asset carrying us forward.'
The tournament winners will join Australia and the West Indies in group B of the World Twenty20 in September, while the losing finalists will complete group A which also includes defending champions England and 2007 winners India.