Skipper Atkinson urges Hong Kong to seize their moment
Jamie Atkinson has called on Hong Kong to seize the opportunity of playing on the world stage to increase the profile of cricket back home.
"Everyone dreams of playing on the world stage and we have got that chance now. We must make the most of it, for only with success can we hope to increase the profile of cricket in Hong Kong," said Hong Kong captain Atkinson on the eve of the ICC World Twenty20.
Four wins out of four in the warm-ups will count for nothing if Hong Kong stumble at the first hurdle in their bid to make it through to the Super 10 stage when they take on Nepal in the first of three group games on Sunday.
The 20,000-seater Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong is expected to be packed and Atkinson is hopeful the neutral Bangladeshi fans will be rooting for his side as they play the most important cricket match of their lives.
"I hope the Bangladeshi supporters will back us. It is great when you have the crowd behind you as this lifts us also," said Atkinson after Hong Kong's remarkable 27-run victory over the Netherlands in the final tune-up.
The small crowd at that match was firmly behind Hong Kong, who seem to have attracted a following since their two wins - the other a four-wicket win over test-playing nation Zimbabwe - after arriving last Sunday with two previous wins over Ireland and the Dutch in Dubai.
"We have the momentum behind us," Atkinson said. "These last couple of weeks people have been sitting up and taking notice of Hong Kong and we have grown in self-belief and confidence. Now we have to continue the good work. We have a long rivalry with Nepal and they have always presented us with tight matches.
"But the focus is on ourselves and how we play and if we continue to play like we have been doing, I believe we should be okay," Atkinson added.
Hong Kong's come-from-behind win over the Dutch on Friday was more astonishing considering three top batsmen were disciplined for failing to turn up for a pool training session.
Openers Irfan Ahmed and Waqas Barkat, as well as Babar Hayat were not picked. With veteran Najeeb Amar rested, fringe players were picked, among them debutant Ehsan Nawaz, Kinchit Shah and Roy Lamsam.