His dad Steve Atkinson batted for two countries – the Netherlands and Hong Kong – but could not quite reach the pinnacle of the game by playing in a World Cup. Son Jamie will try to go one better. Hong Kong, captained by Jamie Atkinson, will leave on Sunday for the United Arab Emirates to take part in the ICC World 8Twenty20 qualifiers. The 16-team tournament is for associate members, among whom are Ireland and Afghanistan, two of the favourites to win one of six berths available for next year’s World Twenty20 in Bangladesh. Father and son are united in the belief that this time around Hong Kong can make it. If they do, it will be the first time Hong Kong take part in a World Cup and the circle will have been completed for the Atkinsons. It was February 1994 in Nairobi, Kenya, that I first met Steve Atkinson. Hong Kong were taking part in the fifth ICC Trophy competition to decide which associate member would qualify for the World Cup in 1996 and Atkinson was one of the top batsmen in the team. It was my first overseas assignment for this paper and it was thrilling to watch Hong Kong reach the last eight in the 20-team tournament – the furthest any Hong Kong team had gone. My first brush with “Atko” was when he agreed to take part in a photo-shoot with a horde of Masai warriors wielding their spears. The idea was that Hong Kong’s top batsman could face anything thrown at him. But there was one big problem: where to find the Masai warriors? The taxi driver I had hired was from a different tribe but knew where I could unearth the famous Masai. “At the market,” he grinned. "So off we went and bundled three bewildered Masai in their long red robes [with spears] into a ramshackle Citroen, with the promise that they could share US$100 among them if they agreed to my instructions: look fierce and aim the weapons, used to herd cows, at Atko. Atko was then at the tail-end of an illustrious career. He had represented the Netherlands before arriving in Hong Kong and making it his home. Jamie was just three years old when Atko was facing the Masai. On Sunday, he will captain Hong Kong as they bid to join the likes of India, Australia and England at a World Cup. Steve Atkinson insists the media should not play up Hong Kong’s chances. “I think they have a great chance of qualifying for the World Cup but they must keep their feet on the ground,” he says. This is the message he has impressed upon his son: “Stay focused, keep it simple and don’t get too far ahead of yourself.” In his third year as captain, Jamie says: “There is a huge belief that we can make it all the way. There are six places up for grabs rather than two as in the past, and we have prepared well. I rate our chances hugely. “My dad has been an important part of my development but has never put any pressure on me and always tells me to keep things simple. And that is what I aim to do. If we qualify, it will be huge for the game in Hong Kong. “Playing in a World Cup would result in more exposure and it would also mean more financial help from the International Cricket Council. It can also motivate youngsters to improve their game.” Dad has influenced me a great deal...I've learned always to stay positive Jamie Atkinson A wicketkeeper, Jamie will bat at number three, a crucial slot in any form of the game, but more so in the shortest version where scoring runs quickly is key. Atkinson has been in fine form recently, being the top run-getter on a training tour to Sydney where Hong Kong played the New South Wales Academy squad and juniors. A one-game call-up by Warwickshire at the tail-end of the English County Championship also gave him more confidence. “I first captained Hong Kong at the ACC Twenty20 in Kathmandu in 2011 and I feel I have come a long way since then. I find I’m more confident in making decisions but the most important thing is that I have a very good working relationship with the players who are all very talented,” says Atkinson. It will be a hard slog for Hong Kong at the tournament, which gets under way on Friday. Grouped with Ireland, Namibia, Canada, Uganda, United States, Italy and UAE, the first task is to finish in the top five and qualify for the knockout phase. Atkinson says the 15-man squad, strengthened by the return of New Zealand-based all-rounder Mark Chapman and Munir Dar, plus the presence of the newly-qualified Haseeb Amjad and Tanwir Afzaal will be up to the task. “We have been lucky to have kept a core of players over the last two to three years so everyone has played together for some time,” Atkinson said. “Mark and 8Munir will bolster the batting while our bowling options have been increased by Tanwir and Haseeb.” Chapman, a left-handed top-order batsman who is likely to follow Atkinson to the crease, will bring an added zip to the batting. Being a left-hander, he will give the team some variation at the top of the order which is otherwise made up of right-handers. And his next best asse is his sharp fielding, especially in cover. “In the past our fielding has sometimes let us down. This is an area that we have targeted in the build-up to this tournament and an area which won us the tight games on our training trip to Sydney,” Atkinson said. “In this game where every run is vital, a good stop in the outfield or a brilliant catch can win a game in an instant and we realise how important our field will be. “We have always been a strong bowling unit and are lucky to have some excellent quicks and spinners and this combination is vital to success in a T20. As for our batting, I’m confident everyone from 1 to 11 can contribute. In the last couple of tournaments we have played, all our top six batsmen have also made major contributions.” In both batting and bowling the Ahmed brothers, Irfan and Nadeem, will hold the key. Irfan will open both the batting and bowling. His fiery right-arm thunderbolts peppered with variations can give Hong Kong crucial wickets at the start of an innings and his explosive batting – seen so often at the Hong Kong Sixes – can light up the sky and give his team the desired start. Elder brother and left-arm spinner Nadeem is one of the main wicket-takers for Hong Kong and if he is at the top of his game, the opposition will find it hard to score off his four overs. “They are both huge players for us. Nadeem has consistently been one of Hong Kong’s premier spinners for a long time and is very reliable and someone I can turn to when I need a wicket or if I need the runs down,” Atkinson said. “Irfan has been a revelation at the top of the order. He hits the ball so well while his bowling has come on leaps and bounds. He is quick but controlled as well. There has hardly been a game where either of them hasn’t contributed in some way.” At the 2008 Asia Cup, Atkinson made his ODI debut at the age of 17 against Pakistan, and went into the record books as the first person born in the 1990s to play an international one-dayer. Now he wants to make a bigger impression – leading Hong Kong to its first World Cup. “My dad has influenced me a great deal and having played a good standard himself, he knows what he is talking about. But the biggest thing I have learned from him is to always remain positive, and that is how I play the game now,” says Atkinson as he faces up to the toughest test in his career yet. At least he won’t come up against any Masai warriors.