Eligibility boost for Hongkong's ICC Trophy team
HONGKONG will be able to send their strongest ever side to the International Cricket Council Trophy in Kenya next year after they held off a proposal to change a residency rule which would have decimated their team.
At the annual meeting of world cricket's associate members at Lord's in London, Kenya proposed increasing the rule regarding qualification by residency from four years to five years.
Although the proposal won the vote 10-7, it did not gain the required two-thirds support to make it effective for next year's ICC Trophy, which will be held at nine grounds in and around Nairobi from February 10 to March 6.
Secretary of the Hongkong Cricket Association John Cribbin led the opposition, who needed at least six votes, and he was delighted and relieved with the outcome.
Speaking from London last night, Cribbin said: ''It was a long and difficult debate lasting over two hours and fortunately we scraped through by the skin of our teeth.
''It did not look as though it was going all that well because there was a lot of support for Kenya but we fought our corner and stuck in there.
''Some countries we thought were on our side - such as Malaysia and Bangladesh - voted with Kenya, which was a bit disappointing, but we found enough support to deny them the two-thirds majority.'' The rule regarding residency states that a player must have lived in the country he wishes to represent for no less than eight months in each of the four years prior to the opening day of the tournament.
With the ICC allowing the three top sides from the 1994 associate members' competition to join the nine Test-playing nations in the next World Cup limited overs tournament, Kenya led a challenge to increase the residency rule to five years for their own tournament and to seven years for subsequent events.
The move was to prevent weaker nations stacking their line-ups with players who were not good enough to play at Test level in their home countries.
A one-year extension to the residency rule would have deprived Hongkong of some leading players, notably vice-captain Steve Atkinson, fellow opening bat Stewart Brew, batsman John Garden, all-rounders Steve Foster and Leigh Beaman and left-arm paceman David Crowe.
Hongkong argued against the proposal and even attempted to defer the vote on the grounds that the move was being made just six months before the start of the tournament.
They lost the motion on whether to hold the vote 10-7.
The vote on the proposal went exactly the same way, with Hongkong gaining one more vote than they actually needed to fend it off.
Of the 19 associate members, two - East and Central Africa and West Africa - did not attend.
The seven who voted against the proposal were Hongkong, Canada, the Netherlands, Israel, Singapore, Papua New Guinea and the United Arab Emirates.
The 10 in favour were Kenya, Bermuda, the United States, Denmark, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Argentina, Fiji, Gibraltar and Namibia.
There was disappointment for Thailand, whose application to become associate members was deferred until next year.