'Homecoming' for Hong Kong's unknowns
As no less than nine of their squad were born in Pakistan, the ninth Asia Cup could well be mistaken as a homecoming of sorts for Hong Kong. And when Tabarak Dar, their captain, suddenly sized up the press conference and started answering questions in Urdu, the impression was only enhanced. Aftab Habib, their coach, also an ex-England international, is another with links to Pakistan.
What it should not be mistaken for is a misplaced sense of loyalty, especially as their opening match is against the hosts. "Lots of our players have family here and links with Pakistan," said Habib. "But they are qualified as Hong Kong players and we classify ourselves as Hong Kong players."
But after March 17, 2007, all minnows of the world have a right to hope of something, anything, against the mercurials of Pakistan. Inevitably, Habib was asked if he had seen the Ireland game. "Most definitely. Cricket is a funny game and we are optimistic and confident of doing well," Habib said.
Habib's knowledge will be invaluable, having played with a number of Pakistan's internationals. "I've played a lot of county cricket and so know a lot of Pakistan's players from there. We have an indication of how to play against them."
But Ireland at least had a green pitch to take advantage of on that memorable day. Hell may freeze over before a similar pitch surfaces at Karachi's National Stadium tomorrow. Still, Hong Kong, insists Habib, will be competitive.
"We've got some good senior players. Our bowling has some good spinners, who will be our main threat and a couple of good seam bowlers. But we're very excited to be here at the Asia Cup. We'll compete against the two major teams and are looking forward to it."
They may be looking forward to tomorrow's game more than the one after, however. "India is definitely much stronger than Pakistan currently. They are stronger in world cricket," Dar ended, as good a way as any to rile up Pakistan ahead of tomorrow.