It's no joke as HK join big league

DID you hear the one about the Indian businessman offering the Hong Kong cricket team HK$100,000 if they win the Sixes? No, it's not a joke. At least the part about the offer is true. But when this story was related to the pundits of the game, everyone's first reaction was utter incredulity.

'Hong Kong win the Sixes. Ha, ha,' has been the general reaction. Cynics all of them.

But even Hong Kong captain Pat Fordham laughed when asked whether he had heard about this challenge.

He, however, quickly admitted that anything can happen. 'It certainly will be nice to win. But I would like to know what sort of odds they are offering against us winning,' said Fordham.

After all, with cricket being the game it is - and especially as this is a five-over contest - the territory's part-time cricketers can certainly make a valid claim.

The only team in the nine-team competition which is not a professional side - even fellow ICC associate members Holland boast a couple of English county players - Hong Kong can proudly point to past results and tell the doubting Thomases to take a running jump.

They have beaten Pakistan and West Indies in past tournaments. But one win does not make a champion. And this is what Fordham will have to tell his team.

A team, which he himself admits will be the strongest to represent the territory in this competition. It has a nice blend of solid experience and dashing newcomers.

Fordham, Stewart Brew, Ross Greer and Steve Foster provide the experience. The breath of fresh air will come from Rahul Sharma, Riaz Farcy and Rodney Bannister.

The strength of the team lies in the fact that they are all accomplished with the bat and the ball - apart from Fordham who is more comfortable behind the wickets.

Genuine all-rounders, the only problem which the bowling attack will have to grapple with is that they all bowl medium-pace - there is no variation.

As for the batting, it will be explosive action all the way if they get into their stride.

Up against England and New Zealand in the first round, Hong Kong will have enough motivation to prove themselves - perhaps the number one reason being to show Dermot Reeve, England's captain, that they have certainly not forgotten (or is it forgiven?) him from the days when he coached the territory's side at the ICC Trophy tournament in Kenya earlier this year.

The new format also gives the territory more of a chance to be in with a chance of playing for Cup glory on the second day. One win today is likely to earn Hong Kong a berth in the Cup competition.

'England are a strong side and should be one of the favourites to win the tournament,' says Fordham.

So, perhaps the territory will go all out in the very first match of the tournament - against New Zealand.

For two days, Hong Kong's elite will rub shoulders with the professionals. If they win, they will certainly become very professional - by winning the $100,000.

Now wouldn't that be a great joke? Everyone would certainly enjoy it. Mmmm, maybe not the Indian businessman.