Hong Kong captain calls for one last hurrah
After two thumping defeats, Jamie Atkinson says team can claim biggest scalp and restore their reputation by beating Bangladesh
Skipper Jamie Atkinson uttered a cry of defiance on Wednesday, urging Hong Kong to take the "biggest scalp" in local history by defeating hosts Bangladesh in their final group game at the ICC World Twenty20 on Thursday.
Frustrated at his team's poor performances against Nepal (a crushing 80-run defeat) and Afghanistan (by seven wickets), Atkinson wants Hong Kong to go out with a bang.
Hong Kong had looked the part in the warm-up matches, defeating the Netherlands and test-playing side Zimbabwe. Now they have to find inspiration from those victories as they try to salvage their pride and reputations from their first appearance on the world stage.
"What we can do is try to take the biggest scalp ever for Hong Kong cricket and in this way create a bit of history. That is, of course, apart from playing for our pride," Atkinson said.
So far his calls to seize the opportunity of playing for the first time at the highest level have fallen on deaf ears, mainly on the fielders who have in two matches dropped six catches.
While there have been moments of brilliance - Waqas Barkat and Irfan Ahmed pulling off sensational catches against Nepal and Afghanistan respectively - the lapses have sadly been more frequent, and more costly.
Giving Nepal's best batsmen, Paras Khadka, and his Afghanistan counterpart, Mohammed Shahzad, second chances had been tantamount to keeping the front door open and inviting a burglar into your home, and these two have stolen away any chance Hong Kong had of progressing through to the Super 10 stage.
"We haven't stood up and been counted at crucial times and this has cost us," said head coach Charlie Burke. "You can say it was stage fright. We can take a hundred catches in training but in front of 15,000 people it makes a difference."
Burke cancelled Wednesday's training session, instead allowing the players to relax in the team hotel before their last appearance at the World Twenty20 where the excitement has been amped up by the arrival of the big teams such as India, Pakistan and defending champions West Indies, who will all start in the Super 10 stage.
"This is the first time we have played in a tournament like this and this lack of experience has shown," Burke said. "Probably we put the pressure on ourselves having done so well in the lead-up and the guys thought we had to beat Nepal and Afghanistan.
"Bangladesh gets more opportunity than us to play against top-class opposition, but the very fact that we don't get the opportunity to play against test nations very often should spur us. We have nothing to lose.
"Apart from pride, this is an opportunity for guys to put their hands up for future tours," warned Burke.