HK 'must be fearless among big boys'
Hong Kong left last night for Dubai and the final qualifying round for the ICC World Twenty20 with a strong conviction they are in contention for one of two spots given to associate members for the September showpiece in Sri Lanka.
Head coach Charlie Burke called on his young team to play 'fearlessly' and prove to the world and the International Cricket Council that Hong Kong deserved their place in this important tournament.
'We are the highest-ranked team [20th] from Hong Kong in the world in any team sport and we want to prove we deserve our spot at the top table,' Burke (pictured) said. 'We are probably the youngest team in this competition and I want the guys to play fearless cricket.'
For the first time in almost 16 years, Hong Kong are in with the big boys in the ICC's associate world. From a total of 95 countries, associate and affiliate, only 16 remain. They are split into two groups for the March 13-24 tournament.
Hong Kong are grouped with Nepal, Bermuda, Canada, Papua New Guinea, Denmark, Afghanistan and the Netherlands. The other pool comprises top seeds Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Kenya, Oman, Namibia, US and Uganda.
'Our first four games - against Nepal, Bermuda, Canada and PNG - are vital, and if we can win three of the first four, it will get the confidence up of this young side,' Burke said. 'If we do find ourselves in this position, the guys will say, 'hang on, this is no big deal', and this fearlessness will be key when we come up against the bigger teams later in the tournament.'
In December, Hong Kong went to Nepal for the Asian qualifiers for this ICC World Twenty20 and reached the final before losing to Afghanistan by eight runs. But the goal of qualifying had been accomplished.
'Over the past few months, the boys have been learning to play smarter. They know their own games better and as a team, they know the game plan better. It will now be all about executing it under pressure.'