AUSTRALIA and New Zealand will send officially-sanctioned national teams to this year's Hongkong International Cricket Sixes, which will also feature England captain Graham Gooch and the return of veteran South African Clive Rice. In a massive boost to the fledgling tournament's prestige, the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) and New Zealand Cricket Incorporated will sanction squads to the nine-team tournament from October 1-2 at the Kowloon Cricket Club. Last year's Australian squad, led by former Test player David Hookes, was full of over-the-hill players and put on a disappointing performance. Graham Halbish, chief executive officer of the ACB, said the Australian squad may not be stacked with big-name Test players, but the side will be more competitive than last year. ''It will be up to the national selectors to pick the squad,'' said Halbish. ''But it will give us the opportunity to pick young players who are on the verge of national selection, although it does not mean the squad will be without some of the established players.'' He said the tournament, won last year by a full-strength Pakistan side, has all the ingredients to be a major event on the international calendar. ''We saw that the Hongkong Cricket Association are keen to promote cricket in the region and by sanctioning a team for this tournament, we will give it more credibility.'' Halbish said the squad will be named after the England versus Australia Ashes series ends next month. The tournament, sponsored by Cathay Pacific and Wharf Holdings, will once again feature the top teams, with South Africa making their debut, replacing Test minnows Zimbabwe. Line-ups have already been confirmed for India, Sri Lanka and South Africa. India are captained by Mohammad Azharuddin and include star batsmen Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli, plus Ravi Shastri, Javagal Srinath, Anil Kumble and Manoj Prabhakar. The Sri Lankan side is Arjuna Ranatunga, Aravinda De Silva, Romesh Kaluwitharane, Ruwan Kulpage, Dulip Liyanage, Sanath Jayasuriya and Asanka Gurusinghe. South Africa will field Rice, Peter Kirsten, Mike Rindle, Steve Jack, Adrian Kuiper, Rudi Bryson and Craig Matthews. Batting legend Viv Richards is expected to be included in the West Indies side, while the world's top pace duo of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis have said they would like to help Pakistan defend their title. Papu Butani, of organisers Cricket World International, said: ''I have had verbal agreements from the Pakistani and West Indian players and I am hopeful they will come to Hongkong.'' Gooch, who earlier this season reached the personal milestone of 100 first-class centuries in his career, has agreed to lead the England team, which will be announced at a later date. Rice, dropped by South Africa soon after their return to the international fold from apartheid-related isolation, is a familiar face with Hongkong fans. He was in Hongkong in 1987 when he won the All-Rounders Challenge, featuring Ian Botham and Sir Richard Hadlee.