Asia Cup 2018: Old cricket outpost Hong-Kong’s Indo-Pak connect
As an opening pair, Hong Kong’s Anshuman Rath and Nizakat Khan evoke curiosity. So, when the two were busy scripting a near fairytale chase against the giants of world cricket, search engines were on overdrive over inquiries about their backgrounds.
They fell just short in Dubai on Tuesday night. The glorious 174-run partnership, the highest for Hong Kong in ODIs that gave India a mighty scare, may not have sealed a victory they could have boasted for a lifetime. However, it put Hong Kong cricket and its strong India-Pakistan connect in the limelight.
If Hong Kong had to make a statement after losing their ODI status in March following an abysmal performance in the World Cup qualifier, the defeat by mere 26 runs against cricketing superpower India has done that.
While skipper Anshuman has his roots in India, Nizakat is Pakistan born; their partnership symbolises Hong Kong cricket, which is built around expatriates from India and Pakistan.
Anshuman, the 20-year-old left-handed batsman, has for long been hailed a cricketing prodigy. The grandparents of Anshy, as he is called, live in Bhubaneswar, a place close to his heart and which he often visited with his parents during summer holidays. He acknowledges his Indian genes have played a major role in shaping his cricket.
While he follows Indian cricket passionately, Anshuman has been rejecting offers to play for Odisha. He wants to make a name playing for the country of his birth, where his father moved in the late 90s and established his business. Kinchit Devang Shah and Raag Kapoor too have strong India connection. Ten players in the squad are below 25.
Pakistan’s influence in the squad, however, is stronger. Nine of them were either born in Pakistan or have roots in that country.
The likes of Babar Hayat, Ehsan Nawaz – they are from Attock in Pakistan -- Nizakat, Nadeem Ahmed, Tanwir Afzal, Ehsan Khan and Aizaz Khan are of Pakistan origin.
No wonder, before Hong Kong’s match against Pakistan in the Asia Cup, social media was abuzz dubbing it a game between Pakistan A and B teams.
Hong Kong’s cricket roots go back to its status as an erstwhile British outpost. The six-a-side tournament there was a craze in the 1990s, in the pre-T20 league days. World’s top big-hitters would flex their muscles in the glitzy event. Indian and Pakistan teams too were regulars in the competition.
Much of Hong Kong cricket evolved over those years and they played their first One Day International in the 2004 Asia Cup. In January 2014, Hong Kong was granted ODI status until 2018. The team got T20 International status in November 2013 after qualifying for the 2014 ICC World T20.
However, Hong Kong lost their ODI status after losing to Netherlands in a play-off for the 2018 World Cup qualifier. Though they created a buzz beating Afghanistan in the qualifier, they could not sustain the momentum. During the Asia Cup qualifier, Hong Kong again punched above their weight to beat Nepal, who recently got ODI status to qualify for the tournament.
Being the only associate nation in Asia Cup, International Cricket Council had to accord it ODI status for its group league matches against India and Pakistan.
If their performance against India is anything to go by, Hong Kong have made a point.