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Hong Kong blown away: 'Playing against Kohli is the best thing that will happen to most of us'

Babar Hayat and Ayush Shukla open up about their Asia Cup experience, which included a trip to the Indian dressing room

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Within minutes of their Asia Cup opener finishing on Wednesday evening, members of the Hong Kong team placed a request through the local liaisons to help facilitate an interaction with the Indian team.
The request was readily accepted and for over 15 minutes, players from both sides mingled with each other. Almost all of Hong Kong squad got pictures with Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Rahul Dravid and Hardik Pandya.
When they were about to leave, the Hong Kong players handed an autographed bat and a signed jersey. It said: "Virat, thank you for inspiring a generation. We stand with you, there are many incredible days ahead."
Babar Hayat, the senior batter, described the moment as "dream come true." For young Ayush Shukla, the 19-year-old fast bowler, it was "once in a lifetime thing."
"Going into their change room and having a chat with all the players, especially Virat and Rohit, getting feedback from them, such moments don't come often to us, so it was dream come true." Hayat said.
For Shukla, born to Indian parents who live in Hong Kong, the moment was extra sweet. He may not have been here had his university been stringent with their policy of not permitting more than a set number of days off.
Shukla is pursuing a bachelor's degree in finance and accounting in Auckland and, for the past three months, he has been taking online classes to keep up with his course work.
On Wednesday, he couldn't stop smiling for two reasons. He'd dismissed Rohit, and also later had an opportunity to chat with him and take pictures.
"It was a massive moment to get Rohit out, it's the best feeling," Shukla said. "I still can't believe I got Rohit Sharma out. For me, it's a big experience. Playing with them and against them on the same ground.
"Who knows when we will play them again, hopefully at the next Asia Cup or a World Cup, so it was a once in a lifetime thing," Shukla said with a smile. "They were so nice. It wasn't like interacting with people you've met for the first time. It was a normal interaction with good conversations. I was very surprised and happy."
What has he learnt from watching India over the past few days?
"On the sidelines, when you see them bat or bowl, the stuff we've learnt from there is great," he said. "Their lifestyle [diets, training], their preparation - you want to try and replicate that and try to be as professional as they are.
"For us, [chance to meet the Indian team], it was massive. At the end of the day playing against Kohli is the best thing that will happen to most of us. Seeing him, what he does, how he prepares, it's great. Speaking to them off the field, immediately we had questions. How do they train, what do they do?
"Of course, there's difference in facilities between us and them. We know whatever information we can get and learn, it's massive. To play in tournaments like this for Associates is huge. It has been a great learning experience."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo