The Hong Kong Cricket Association has been informed by Najeeb Amar that he will step aside from National duties, both as a player and captain, effectively immediately. After a long and illustrious career, that included four One Day International (ODI) matches for Hong Kong, the 39-year old said that he is now more interested in seeing Hong Kong's talented youngsters get an opportunity to wear the 'baggy red' as Hong Kong builds for its ICC World Cricket League Division 2 campaign in 2013.
Najeeb first played for Hong Kong in 2003 under the captaincy of Tim Smart. "I have to thank the Captains I have played under in during my international career," said Najeeb. "This includes my first Captain Tim Smart and my long time friend Rahul Sharma."
When asked about his major highlights playing for Hong Kong Najeeb said, "Playing in the Hong Kong Sixes is something very special to me and it is something that should never be taken for granted. Also winning the ICC Division 3 on home soil this year was something that I will never forget."
He added, "The 2008 ACC Trophy Final is probably my greatest moment, not just because we won but also because I was awarded Man of the Match for a century and four wickets against UAE."
Winning the 2008 ACC Trophy final at the Kinrara Oval in Kuala Lumpur was a huge achievement for Hong Kong. It was Hong Kong's first time winning the trophy and knocked the UAE off their perch. Najeeb was the stand-out performer in that match, scoring a century off just 80 balls which included 12 fours and 6 sixes and claiming 4-61 opening the bowling.
Najeeb has represented Hong Kong for 8 years and took over as captain of Hong Kong from Tabarak Dar in 2009. Since then he has been at the helm while Hong Kong has climbed the international rankings, achieving a position today of 20th ranked team in the world.
"I must thank all my team mates for the support and effort they have given me, especially as captain. I could not have done this without the support of my coaches, especially Charlie Burke who has made this possible. His support and assistance is like no other and his coaching style is so different which has enabled me to go about my captaincy with ease," said Najeeb.
He added, "A big thanks to the HKCA and to Chairman of Selectors Anoop Gidwani for allowing me this great opportunity. Thanks also to Captain Saleem for showing his support in me and everyone in Hong Kong cricket that I have had the pleasure to play with or against."
Reflecting on his time with Najeeb, National Coach Charlie Burke said, "Najeeb has the character of a champion. His leadership on and off the field is something others can only dream of. His support for me as a coach is something that I will value for life and the way he has enabled me to lay trust in him as captain is something that I cherish. To me, he feels like a brother."
Burke added, "Muhammad Ali once said "Champions aren't made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside - a desire; a dream; and a vision. They have to have the skill and the will, but the will must be stronger than the skill." This sums up Najeeb and the way he has led the team since I have been here as coach."
"Najeeb won't mind me saying this, but he has never been the best tactician, nor the most graceful cricketer to watch, but what he has done for Hong Kong Cricket, and the way he supported the young guys and led from the front through pain and belief is something he must be acknowledged for. His vision now to step aside and help Hong Kong prepare for ICC WCL Division 2 shows a selflessness that not many people have, in any sport," Burke said.
Najeeb will continue to work as a cricket coach for the HKCA and no doubt he will make his mark in that area in the years to come. His domestic career is far from over and this weekend will be another big chapter in Najeeb Amar's book, as he heads into battle with his beloved Pakistan Association team against SLCC in the HKCA Sunday League final at Mission Road. He will no doubt want to finish this hectic yet successful cricket year off in style.
Despite today's announcement, Najeeb's fans will have one last opportunity to see him play for Hong Kong as he will step out onto the KCC oval later this year in the annual Hong Kong Sixes - his inclusion in this year's Sixes squad being confirmed by the National Selectors today.