Hong Kong not fazed by challenge of Pakistan and India at the Asia Cup
It goes without saying that the gap in experience between India and Pakistan, and the third side in Group A at the Asia Cup, qualifiers Hong Kong, is vast.
Anshuman Rath, who only took over the Hong Kong captaincy on the eve of last week’s qualifying tournament in Malaysia, is one of five players in the squad aged 20 or under.
Between them, the 17 members of their tour party have played 174 one-day internationals. Which is less than MS Dhoni (321), Shoaib Malik (266) and Rohit Sharma (183), have played on their own.
And Hong Kong had the regular one-day international status taken away from them six months ago, anyway – even though it will be temporarily reinstated for this tournament, because of the calibre of the opposition.
As such, they might be forgiven for feeling overawed by the occasion when they take the field at the Dubai International Stadium next week.
That said, one of their players has been there, done that, and got some of the most high-profile scalps international cricket has to offer.
Nadeem Ahmed is the lone Hong Kong player to have featured in an Asia Cup previously. He did so twice, first as a 16-year-old rookie at the 2004 tournament in Sri Lanka, then four years later in Pakistan.
The left-arm spinner, who will turn 31 on the day of the final, took four wickets against the hosts nation in Karachi a decade ago. The list of dismissals reads like a Who’s Who of modern Pakistani greats: Younis Khan, Mohammed Yousuf, Misbah-ul-Haq, and Shahid Afridi.
Nadeem was born in Pakistan but has a Chinese grandmother, and he moved back to Hong Kong, where the family had lived since the 1920s, when he was a young child.
He is happy to be returning to the big stage, as well as passing on the benefit of his experience to his younger colleagues.
“It is another game, my third Asia Cup against Pakistan, and I am looking forward to it,” Nadeem said, at the side first training session at ICC Academy on Wednesday.
“Our squad is young and they are excited to play against Pakistan. I’ve just said to stick to the basics, like we did in Malaysia [where they qualifier after beating UAE in the final].
“We lost the first game against Malaysia and we bounced back really well. To stand up in every game like that to get here, credit goes to everyone. They deserve to play against Pakistan and India.”
Rath, the captain, urged his side to play with “no fear” against their superstar opposition, while Simon Cook, the coach, says it is a good chance to measure themselves against the best.
“We are benchmarking ourselves against the best in the world,” Cook said.
“It is a great learning experience for the boys, and also hopefully the chance to cause an upset.
“It is what fairytales are made of. India are coming off a hectic tour of the UK, and you never know what can happen on the day.”