The dreams of Hong Kong's weekend cricketers of playing in the 2015 World Cup will be decided at the International Cricket Council's annual conference that gets under way in the city tomorrow.
At the end of the day, a World Cup appearance might be nothing more than a pipe dream for the likes of Irfan Ahmed or Mark Chapman, but there is also the harsh economic reality of losing out on millions of Hong Kong dollars - the US$350,000 ICC high-performance grant with which Hong Kong was rewarded this year - if the world governing body decides not to go back to the old qualifying format for the World Cup.
'This annual conference will be very important for the international game as a number of key issues will be taken up. But it is also crucial for tiny Hong Kong as our very future hinges on it,' Dinesh Tandon, chairman of the Hong Kong Cricket Association, said.
'It is not so much the money but the fact that the chance of playing in a World Cup will keep alive aspirations for an associate nation like us to play at the highest level,' he said. 'The money, while useful, comes second compared to crushing the dreams of cricketers from all over the world.'
One of the main issues on which the ICC Executive Board will decide is the format and make-up of the 2015 World Cup. Soon after this year's 14-team tournament ended in Mumbai on April 2, the ICC executive agreed that the next World Cup would be limited to the 10 full members. This raised a storm of protest, leading to ICC president Sharad Pawar asking the executive board to revisit the decision in Hong Kong.
'There is a strong sentiment towards that decision being revoked,' Tandon said. 'What matters now is what the ICC will decide as far as how many teams will take part, and what form a qualifying tournament will take.'
Hong Kong will hope that the ICC decides to stick to its existing World Cricket League format. Hong Kong finished fourth in Division Two in Dubai in April, becoming a high-performance country with an annual grant of US$350,000. If the old system had been in place, Hong Kong would have been guaranteed this sum annually until 2013, when it would have taken part in Scotland in what would have been the final qualifying tournament for the 2015 World Cup.
'Our hopes of going to Scotland in 2013 and playing for a World Cup berth will be decided this week. I'm not saying we will qualify, but the dream will still be alive. And of course, financially, we would be supported until 2013 too,' Tandon said.
The question of whether or not the World Cup is for all nations is one of the many issues that will be dealt with at the annual conference, which ends on Thursday. It promises to be full of intrigue and back-room deals, with the other controversial topics including a resolution to end the rotation policy for the ICC presidency after 2014 - Pawar will next year be replaced by vice-president Alan Isaac of New Zealand, who will carry on until 2014, when it has been suggested that the two-year rotation ends - and India's lonely fight against the use of technology allowing players to challenge an umpire's decision.
Among the other major issues the conference will address are: whether to go ahead with the proposal for day/night test matches; if two balls should be used in each innings of a 50-over one-day international and that the batting and bowling powerplays only be allowed to be taken between the 16th and 40th overs; and the removal of the restriction on the maximum number of overs a bowler can deliver.
More than 100 top officials from the world of cricket - the 10 full members plus the 35 associates and representatives of the affiliates - will take part in the conference, being held for the first time in Hong Kong.
The amount, in US dollars, of the annual grant that Hong Kong receives after finishing fourth in Division Two in Dubai this year