World T20 2014 March 15, 2014

Hong Kong seek international exposure


Hong Kong's jubilation at their first major international tournament was seen when they stunned Zimbabwe in their first warm-up game in Chittagong. Their last-ball win amped up their confidence.

This particular Hong Kong squad is much younger than the usual sides of the past. The change came through coach Charlie Burke who has brought in a group of youngsters to blend in with the experienced lot.

Mark Chapman, Irfan Ahmed and Tanwir Afzal have already shown what they have to offer, but much can be expected from the 23-year-old captain Jamie Atkinson.

It will be interesting to see how the older lot performs. Particularly Munir Dar, 42, who played in the Dhaka Premier League in 2007-08 for Old DOHS, will be expected to make sure the batting line-up retains balance. He won't be allowed to bowl, after being banned by the ICC, but Hong Kong will hope comeback man Najeeb Amar will cover for him.

This tournament, it is hoped, is just the start of international exposure for Hong Kong, as they came close to qualifying for the 2015 World Cup too. They have already connected themselves with the Hong Kong Sports Institute, which will keep several players trained throughout the year.

In order to justify their progress, they would want to spring a surprise or two in the World T20.

Key players
Irfan Ahmed took three wickets against Zimbabwe, and will be expected to bowl well in the main tournament too. He is a medium-fast bowler and has the reputation of being more than just a big-hitting allrounder. He has a Twenty20 century and averages 28.16 with the bat in the format.

Surprise package
Just like Asif Karim made a comeback from retirement for Kenya's 2003 World Cup campaign, so has Najeeb Amar. He is a left-arm spinner, but on the other side of 40, and his return after three years has already started well. He will be expected to keep things in check from his end.

Like any first-timer, Hong Kong will have a tough time against any side more experienced against them. Playing against the spin of Afghanistan and Bangladesh will be a challenge, so will be expressing themselves in front of large crowds.

World T20 history
This is their first appearance, having been the last team to complete the qualification in the UAE last November.

Recent form
Before beating Zimbabwe in Chittagong, they played six matches in Sri Lanka and the UAE as part of preparations for this tournament. They won two of the three games in Sri Lanka, and fared similarly in the UAE where they beat Ireland and Netherlands.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here