Cook eager for England reunion
For the former Middlesex and Kent bowler Simon Cook, next week will be an unexpected chance to catch up with old friends. As the new head coach of Hong Kong he will watch his team take on England in Abu Dhabi on Sunday and he is looking forward to pitting his wits against some elite coaches and players who he knows well.
One of those will be Paul Farbrace, now England's assistant to Trevor Bayliss, who was twice coach of Kent during Cook's time with the county between 2005 and 2012. At Kent he also got to know Sam Billings, who is in England's limited-overs squad, as the wicketkeeper-batsman began to forge his career. Before then he played for Middlesex from 1997 and 2004 and towards the end of that spell Eoin Morgan was just forcing his way into the 2nd XI.
"I've spent a lot of time around Farby and have a lot of respect for him," Cook told ESPNcricinfo. "He's done fantastically well. Eoin was coming through the youth set-up at Middlesex when I was there and I got to know him quite well and then there was also Sam at Kent. It will be good to see them all."
Cook has been in Hong Kong for two-and-a-half years after finishing his county career in 2012. He was recently promoted to the head role in an interim capacity after a period as the bowling coach as Hong Kong rejigged their coaching set-up.
Although the England match is not a full one-day international - despite Hong Kong having ODI status - Cook is eager for his players to use the experience of the longer limited-overs format to hone skills which, he admits, are currently more suited to Twenty20. He picks out a couple of players who could trouble England, Irfan Ahmed at the top of the order and bowler Haseeb Amjad who he says has as good a yorker as anyone he has seen in county cricket.
"In any side there's always the odd one or two who can cause you a bit of damage. Guys like Irfan Ahmed who can, on his day, destroy a team and we have great death bowler in Haseeb Amjad as well, who is probably one of the better exponents of bowing at the death I've seen, even in county cricket. Azhar Mahmood was fantastic when I played for Kent - and he keeps doing it - and Haseeb is up there as one of the few guys in the world who can really nail a yorker on demand.
"For us, in the longer form of the game you'll see the class of a main international side will win out so what I'm looking forward to is the guys learning from that experience, seeing how the England guys perform their skills. It's not one-off shots and one-deliveries, it's the fact they can do it for a sustained period of time and that's what I want our guys to really learn."
The main focus of Hong Kong's trip is the Intercontinental Cup and World Cricket League matches against UAE while they will also play Twenty20 internationals against Afghanistan and Oman as they begin their build-up to the World T20 in India next March.
"It will be a great learning experience for me. I've been around a first-class set-up playing wise, but internationally I haven't been around that much and when I have it's been as a bowling coach with Hong Kong. On this trip our primary focus on the Intercontinental Cup and World Cricket League, but these other games are a really, really great bonus. It's my first trip as a head coach so I'm looking to learn a heck of a lot from all the teams we come across."
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo