ICC paves way for Hong Kong to attain test status
Governing body's rule changes mean associate nations have avenue for qualification
Hong Kong have a chance to become a test-playing nation by 2017 after the International Cricket Council's latest rule changes opened a qualifying pathway for associate nations.
The ICC executive board has approved a wide-ranging and controversial resolution to change its governance and financial model.
Spurred on by the boards of India, England and Australia, the revamp mainly focused on the full members, but one point involved the leading associate members, including Hong Kong.
It read: "The winner of the next ICC Intercontinental Cup will play off against the bottom-ranked full member with the prize of gaining test status. The existing full member will retain test status."
"What this means is that we have a chance of becoming a test nation," said John Cribbin, secretary of the Hong Kong Cricket Association.
"We will need to play four-day cricket against the other associate members who are in the top eight to earn the right to enter the play-off. This is great news for Hong Kong cricket - a real pathway to joining the top table."
Hong Kong joined the top associate members after a successful ICC World Cup (50 overs) qualifying campaign in New Zealand, winning one-day international status.
The teams in the ICC Intercontinental Cup will be United Arab Emirates, Scotland, Ireland, Afghanistan (all of whom qualified for the World Cup), Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Namibia and Kenya.
"It is reassuring that the ICC meeting in Singapore came out with a pathway to test cricket for the associates. This shows funding will continue to improve and there is the genuine hope of becoming a test side," Cribbin said.
Ireland are the holders of the Intercontinental Cup. The last competition, comprising eight countries, was played from June 2011 to December 2013.
If the same format and timescale is followed for the next competition, the final will take place in December 2016, followed by the play-off against the bottom-ranked test nation in 2017. Bangladesh occupy the bottom rung of the test ladder.
Previously, gaining test status depended on the whim and fancy of the ICC. Bangladesh were the last team admitted to the top flight in 2000.
"This development adds even more urgency for Hong Kong to have an international-sized ground as soon as possible," Cribbin said. "We can't aspire for test status if we don't have a ground to play on."
The HKCA is in the process of applying to the government for funds to build an international-class facility in Ma On Shan.