Ankur Sharma to be among Hong Kong's starting XI in Malaysia
Coach Burke says he will ring the changes, with right-hander among ODI debutants
Ankur Sharma could be one of the new faces in the starting XI as Hong Kong play their first one-day international since 2008 against top seeds Afghanistan in the ACC Premier League in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.
Right-handed batsman Sharma is set to fill the big shoes left vacant by unavailable Mark Chapman in Hong Kong's first major international assignment since defeating Bangladesh at the ICC World Twenty20 last month.
"Ankur, Sakhawat [Ali] and Ehsan [Nawaz] are all in the frame as they have put in some solid performances in the warm-up matches since we arrived here," said Hong Kong coach Charlie Burke. "I'm expecting a few changes to the side we played in Bangladesh."
While Sharma and Ali were not part of the Twenty20 squad on that historic visit to Bangladesh, impressive young fast bowler Nawaz was in Chittagong and he is likely to earn a place in the strike force alongside Tanwir Afzal, Haseeb Amjad and Irfan Ahmed.
"There will be around six or seven players in the team, who will be making their ODI debuts. I will name the final XI on the day, but everyone is ready. We have had a good preparation, winning both our warm-up games against local clubs," Burke said.
Skipper Jamie Atkinson, Irfan Ahmed, Nadeem Ahmed and Skhawat Ali are the only players in the 14-strong squad to have played in an official ODI game - at the 2008 Asia Cup in Colombo.
Atkinson will have to play smart, with the fickle Kuala Lumpur weather likely to play a big role in the six-team round-robin competition.
"It is very humid and it is raining every afternoon so Duckworth Lewis will play a big part in this tournament," said Burke.
Meeting the top seeds first-up will be a huge challenge for Hong Kong, who are keen to carry on the momentum from their last 50-overs tournament - the World Cup qualifiers in New Zealand in January, where they won ODI status and just missed out on qualification.
"This is a good opportunity to show the world that we are in the top six [associate countries] on merit and that we deserve to be in this company," Burke said.
Hong Kong will also play Oman, UAE, Nepal and hosts Malaysia.