Disappointing India dumped out of Sixes Cup competition
World's richest cricket nation arrives at KCC just hours before Sixes starts - and virtually unknown squad is soon sent packing from Cup
Vivek Bakshi, the manager of the India team, brushed aside suggestions that the world's most financially powerful cricketing nation had sent a scratch side to the Karp Group Hong Kong Sixes, as organisers yesterday first scrambled to get a virtually unknown side to the ground on time - the first day's play at Kowloon Cricket Club - and then watched them being knocked out of the Cup competition.
"This is by no means a scratch team. Yes, we had to make last-minute changes to the side but this team mostly comprises youngsters who all have the dream of wearing a blue cap [representing India] one day," said Bakshi.
"If you remember, back in 2005, one unknown guy called Mahendra Singh Dhoni led India to victory here and he went on to captain the country."
This will be small consolation for the Hong Kong Cricket Association, which had hoped the world's most influential cricketing board - the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) - would send a strong side for the 2012 edition.
Ever since the HKCA took control of the Sixes from private interests back in the late 1990s, it has struggled to get big-name players from India. The days when Sachin Tendulkar graced this tournament are long past with the BCCI having a strong hold on the contracted players.
While the rest of the seven overseas teams are all representative sides officially sent by their boards, the BCCI has stayed aloof and refused to get too involved with the popular Hong Kong tournament, which is being telecast live throughout the sub-continent.
But HKCA president Shahzada Saleem promised that things would change in the future with plans next year to get an official line-up from India.
"We need a strong Indian side at this tournament because we have a large Indian fan base in Hong Kong as well as sponsors keen to back the team," Saleem said. "The problem is that the BCCI does not recognise sixes as an official version of the game and that is why they do not send a representative side. But hopefully this will change in the future."
The BCCI only recognises test, one-day internationals and now the much-sought after Twenty20 versions of the game. But despite not sanctioning sixes, they have allowed an Indian side to compete at this tournament, which is officially recognised by the International Cricket Council.
"The onus is on the Hong Kong Cricket Association to work something out with the BCCI," said respected Indian TV commentator Arun Lal. "I have no idea why the BCCI does not officially recognise sixes even though all the other boards do so".
To compound problems, India completely changed the official line-up submitted to the organisers a week ago, including skipper Praveen Kumar and a host of Indian Premier League-hardened players, and arrived at the ground with a makeshift team just in the nick of time, forcing organisers to change the schedule to accommodate their late arrival in Hong Kong (7am yesterday).
"The guys were held up at immigration for about two hours and they came straight to the ground. It has been crazy these last few days. We had to make changes at the last minute after all the state teams had received a directive from BCCI that players picked for two top domestic competitions, as well as the Indian A team to meet England, should attend training camps," Bakshi said.
The BCCI directive had resulted in six of the seven players in the original squad having to pull out. Skipper Kumar also dropped out with a chest injury, adding up to wholesale changes in the squad.
"This is mostly a young side with dreams of one day playing for India. We are here to win this tournament," Bakshi said after the players made light of their late arrival by defeating the Netherlands in their opening fixture, successfully defending a modest total of 69 to win by nine runs.
However India, sponsored by local firm AG-Tel Mex Technology, failed to live up to their manager's words, losing their next two pool games to Sri Lanka by 37 runs and then being crushed by arch-rivals Pakistan by five wickets to be relegated to the Plate competition today.