Foreign service could boost HK World Cup bid
Irfan Ahmed and Babar Hayat could soon be playing overseas as part of a plan to embed Hong Kong's best players in top-grade cricket with an eye on qualifying for the ICC World Cup in 2015.
Opener Irfan has plied his trade in the English club scene in past seasons, but now the Hong Kong Cricket Association is looking to secure him and other top players a position overseas, in England or the subcontinent.
'We need to invest in our players and the best way would be to send them overseas so they can continue to develop their game as we look ahead to the 2015 World Cup qualifiers,' said Hong Kong head coach Charlie Burke (pictured).
There are four places available for associate nations at the 2015 World Cup. The ICC's recently released qualification structure shows two qualifiers will come from among Afghanistan, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, the Netherlands, Scotland, the United Arab Emirates and Namibia, who will play a home and away league. The bottom six will get a second bite of the cherry and will join division two's Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea, plus two more teams from division three in a final qualifying event in 2014 to decide the last two berths.
'We don't have any top-level 50 overs cricket for the next two years and it is imperative we create our own opportunities. One way would be to send our best players abroad to improve their game. The other option is to bring in teams, possibly play an Australian and New Zealand combined side in Guangzhou,' Burke said.
The ICC has yet to decide where the qualifiers will be held in 2014, and with conditions playing a big part it would be meaningless to send a player to England if the qualifying tournament is in Dubai, for instance, where the track is likely to be more of a subcontinent nature.
'Originally, the qualifying tournament was to be held in Scotland, but that is no longer the case and the venue is still undecided,' Burke said. 'It would have been good if the ICC had at least indicated if the tournament would be played in Europe or not, then we could at least be able to prepare accordingly.
'But the main thing is to see the players are competing against high-quality opposition on a regular basis. Today we [the Hong Kong squad for the ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers] are playing against a Kowloon invitation side in a warm-up game, while the likes of Scotland and UAE are meeting each other in a one-day international match. It shows what we are up against.'
Hong Kong will be facing the best next month in Dubai, at the ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers, and Burke will be hoping to make the most of it.
'It will only be Twenty20, but it will be a good opportunity to play against the top sides like the Netherlands and Ireland. We are in the top 10 teams among the associate members and we need to stay at this level. But to do this, we need to make sure our cricketers get more opportunities,' he said.