'We just did not play smart enough' - Aftab Habib
Hong Kong were one of the favourites at the recently completed World Cricket League Division Three tournament in Argentina. They finished fourth. Here, their coach Aftab Habib reflects on what went wrong:
Which team impressed you the most during the tournament and why?
Papua New Guinea, Afghanistan and Uganda. The reason why - they had medium quick bowlers who used the conditions well. At the higher level, you need bowlers who put the ball in the right place and have the patience to do that. The wickets really played a big part, favouring swing and seam movement on all the grounds. Throughout the tournament, 180 was a winning score due to the pitches we played on, so winning the toss was crucial for the teams.
You had a couple of close results go against you, especially Uganda [by 1 run]. How much of it was bad luck, and how much just simply results reflecting the way Hong Kong played?
We did have some close matches, but we did not make use of the advantage to finish games off. We had an opportunity of qualifying, but slipped up and that’s due to pressure. We did not play well enough for a team who looked really strong on paper. We just did not play smart enough, and we need to think on our feet more in crucial situations.
What did you think of the team's batting throughout the tournament?
The batting let us down on a lot of occasions. We just were not quick enough to adapt to the Argentine wickets. Simply, we did not have anyone who could bat through the innings and graft a match performance. We had one player who stood out and played well for us - Manoj Cheruparambil, who was excellent with the bat. As for the other positives, our spin bowlers bowled extremely well throughout the tournament, but we need to work harder on our batting, just work out how to play on different surfaces and have a game plan. Cricket is about having to read the game more and do the simple things right.
Were Hong Kong capable of winning the tournament?
Hong Kong were capable of winning the tournament, but threw it away. You have to win the close games and we did not play well enough. I can go on and on but we lost to Afghanistan by 13 runs and then lost to Uganda by 1 run. We just cracked under pressure with the game in our hands. That has cost us the World Cup Qualifier and I am bitterly disappointed.
Interview with Tony Munro
Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo