Nizakat eager to seize opportunity of a lifetime
Nizakat Khan has been looking up the Shane Warne manual on the art of leg spin bowling as Hong Kong's vice-captain realises he will be called upon to deliver the goods in the UAE. Yet it his batting that bothers him most.
A poor run of form at the qualifiers in Nepal in December has left Nizakat in a funk.
'If I do well with the bat, it will not only be hugely beneficial to Hong Kong, but it will also increase my chances of winning a place in the Bangladesh Premier League next season,' says Nizakat, 19.
Nizakat, Irfan Ahmed and Munir Dar, three of Hong Kong's top batsmen, were all put forward by the Hong Kong Cricket Association as prospective players for the BPL. Unfortunately, none were picked up by any of the franchises in the auction for the inaugural season last month. They didn't have enough exposure and hard stats to support their claims.
'We were all unlucky. We were not picked in the auction but I hope it will be different next year. This tournament gives us the chance to make people sit up and take notice,' Nizakat said. Nizakat will have to take on even more bowling responsibilities after leading left-arm spinner Nadeem Ahmed pulled out of the squad due to personal reasons.
'Nadeem will be a huge loss. He bowled really well in Nepal in conditions which will be similar to what we face in Dubai,' Nizakat said. 'His absence will mean there is only Munir, who is also a left-arm spinner, so I guess I will be called upon to bowl my leggies. I was never a bowler. When I joined the national team [in 2008 at the ICC World Cricket League Division Four tournament in Tanzania], I was picked as a batsman. But my role has changed over the years and today I'm an all-rounder.'
Hong Kong have always had players who could bat and bowl a bit. But it will be the specialist batsmen who will have to deliver if they are to stay competitive against Afghanistan, the Netherlands, Canada, Papua New Guinea, Bermuda, Denmark and Nepal in the pool stages. Players like Babar Hayat, captain Jamie Atkinson, Waqas Barkat and Courtney Kruger.
All-rounders Munir and Irfan, who both excelled in Nepal in the Asian qualifiers - topping the averages in batting and bowling - will also have to come good.
'There is so much anticipation and excitement,' Nizakat said. 'The chance of playing in a World Cup makes me nervous, but at the same time I'm excited at such an opportunity.
'This will be the biggest tournament in my life. I know if we all do well, we stand a really good chance.'