Absence of cricket giants India and Pakistan at Asian Games decried
Hong Kong official Charlie Burke believes September event will be less of a draw without two powerhouses
India and Pakistan have turned their backs on September's Asian Games, boosting Hong Kong's chances of a medal - but top official Charlie Burke decried the absence of the subcontinent giants, saying it's a major blow for the game's profile in the region.
India did not participate four years ago in Guangzhou when cricket made its debut at the Games in the Twenty20 format. Pakistan turned up but failed to make it to the final, with Bangladesh beating Afghanistan.
"It is a shame for the Asian Games and Asian cricket in general to not have two of the big powerhouses participating," said Burke, Hong Kong Cricket Association's director of cricket.
The absence of India in particular in Incheon, South Korea, will be a massive loss to the Asian Games especially as their presence would have guaranteed massive interest and wide television coverage.
"I believe the format and the Asian Games is so crucial to developing the sport in countries like China, Thailand, Malaysia, Nepal. The Asian Cricket Council has done a wonderful job getting the sport into the Games since 2010. The biggest challenge is to make sure it remains for the 2019 Games and beyond," Burke said.
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will be the only two test-playing nations, sending teams for both the men's and women's competition. Pakistan will take part in the women's event.
"Of course, it will give us a better opportunity to win a medal," Burke said. "But it is a shame as I want the guys to play as many top teams as possible.
"Nepal, Afghanistan and us will be very competitive against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, I have no doubt there will be a surprise or two," Burke said.
Like Hong Kong, China will take part in the men's and women's events and their progress will be closely watched by international observers.
The men's draw has Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Maldives, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and hosts South Korea. Seven of the 10 will take part in the women's event with Afghanistan, Maldives and Kuwait making way for Japan, Thailand and Pakistan.