Asia Cup 2008 June 22, 2008

Stage set for Hong Kong to prove themselves

Cricinfo staff

Hong Kong's inexperienced players hope to gain plenty by competing against stronger opponents in the Asia Cup © AFP

While he knows all too well how tough it will be for his inexperienced side to beat India and Pakistan, Hong Kong captain Tabarak Dar sees the Asia Cup as an excellent opportunity to learn and develop.

The tournament starts in Karachi on June 24, and Dar believes it will encourage Hong Kong and other smaller sides to lift their game in the future. "I believe this [Asia Cup] is a very good chance to play with big guns Pakistan and India, the two world-class outfits," he told the Dawn, a Pakistan daily. "And if we are able to compete with them it would only benefit Hong Kong cricket.

"Even though our task is very tough, we are pretty optimistic of putting up a good show here because the stage is set for our lads to prove everyone where we stand in international cricket."

Hong Kong lost both their matches in the previous Asia Cup in 2004. They play hosts Pakistan on Tuesday and India the next day.

"At the end of the day, we are not here on holidays," said Dar, 32. "Our aim is to be competitive in this tournament and try to create an upset or two. Playing alongside the best teams will be a good learning process for my team."

While Dar could not single out any one player to watch out for, he had confidence in his team. "There are individuals in this squad who are capable of big things," he said. "Basically, ours is a side that contains all-round players. However, we are pinning our bowling hopes on Nadeem Ahmed, who was a youngster when we played in Sri Lanka in 2004."

"Straight after the Asia Cup we have the ACC Trophy, so we are looking at it as an opportunity to play against bigger Test nations and show the world where we stand here and then in the ACC Trophy," said Dar.

Aftab Habib, Hong Kong's coach, admitted they were up against the odds. "We are a very small team but this Asia Cup gives us an opportunity to know where we stand against bigger teams and it is a huge stepping stone for us," Habib, a former England Test player who took over as coach 10 months ago, told AFP. "I am honoured to be associated with Hong Kong cricket and by now have got to know the boys well and the goal for me is to take them further."