League final to go ahead amid row
The controversy-ridden Sunday League grand final between Little Sai Wan and Pakistan Association will now go ahead at Hong Kong Cricket Club - on Saturday.
The game will start minutes before the Hong Kong Cricket Association's (HKCA) executive committee is to convene in what is expected to be an acrimonious meeting following KCC Infidels' failed bid to oust Pakistan Association from the final.
The showpiece game of the 2011-12 season was cancelled at the 11th hour last Sunday after Kowloon Cricket Club (KCC) refused to allow the 50-overs match to go ahead at its Cox's Road ground. KCC felt that the Infidels should have been playing instead of Pakistan Association, who had been found guilty of fielding an ineligible player in the semi-finals.
The HKCA penalised Pakistan Association subsequently, but the penalty was deemed insufficient by KCC officials, who hope to bring up their grievance again at Saturday's executive committee meeting.
Plans to hold the final at Mission Road on Sunday were stymied because the ground is under summer maintenance by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.
However, HKCC stepped in and said it would make its turf pitch available, but on Saturday. 'We are very grateful to the HKCC for making their ground available for the biggest match of the season,' said Shahzada Saleem, HKCA president. 'Unfortunately the ground has been booked on Sunday, but still we are thankful that we can use it on Saturday.'
Pakistan Association fielded the ineligible player in the semi-final against Infidels a fortnight ago. After losing, KCC lodged a protest with the HKCA's match disciplinary committee, saying that their opponents should forfeit the game for fielding fast bowler Adil Mehmood, who hadn't played all season.
The disciplinary committee was sympathetic to the view that Mehmood's inclusion was an oversight and only slapped a ban on skipper Hussain Butt from leading the team in the final and stated that Mehmood would not be able to play in the final.
Under present rules, players who don't play at least two games during the season cannot play in the semi-finals or final. This ruling was brought in to prevent clubs from bringing in top-quality ringers for the business end of the season. Mehmood, who has been resident in Hong Kong for five years, hadn't played this season due to studies and exams.
Butt, owning up to the mistake, said it had been a genuine oversight that his club hadn't asked for prior permission from the HKCA disciplinary committee to field Mehmood.
After the disciplinary committee overturned KCC's bid to enter the final by default, KCC appealed to the HKCA executive committee to overturn the decision and penalise Pakistan Association with a forfeit. The executive committee upheld the decision despite six members of the 11-strong body going against the original verdict - four saying the semi-final should be replayed while two called for an outright forfeit.
A loophole in the present rules, which don't clearly state what the penalty should be for fielding an ineligible player, has created the controversy. KCC's captain of cricket Simon Scanlon has stated that the HKCA should fall into line with 'world cricket' and punish Pakistan Association with a forfeit.
HKCA president Saleem said yesterday: 'We will be looking into this and see how best to avoid such an issue in the future. I hope we can settle this amicably.'
The HKCA executive committee will meet on Saturday morning at HKCC where the matter is expected to be brought up.
But it will be too late for KCC Infidels. The final will be under way by then.