Budding cricketers of the ICC Academy with the Unimoni Asia Cup 2018 trophy in Dubai. Image Credit: Courtesy: ACC

Dubai: It will be baptism by fire for qualifiers Hong Kong, who have been drawn to meet Pakistan and India in their opening fixtures of the Asia Cup which gets under way next week.

Hong Kong, which stopped the UAE in the final qualifier in Malaysia on Friday to clinch a place in the 14th edition of the event, open their campaign against the reigning ICC Champions Trophy holders on September 16 and then India a day later.

The first time Hong Kong appeared in the event was when Sri Lanka hosted it in 2004 — when their captain Anshuman Rath was only six-year-old. The team was then captained by Rahul Sharma.

is the year that Hong Kong made their Cup debut

Acknowledging the close battle against the UAE in the final qualifier which they won by two wickets with three balls to spare, Rath said: “Firstly, I would like to thank UAE for playing a tremendous game. The game got away from us for that little period. The momentum was with them, but we knew that if we kept our focus on batting that we would get there.”

It was a determined comeback by Hong Kong after a poor show in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 campaign in Zimbabwe earlier this year in which they lost their one-day international status too. Speaking to the ICC website, Rath said: “We had a really bad tournament in Zimbabwe at the World Cup qualifiers, we lost our one-day status and it felt really bad. After that, we worked really hard for this Asia Cup qualifiers. We worked really hard for two months back in Hong Kong. I think we wanted to show the world what we can do despite losing the ODI status.”

Rath revealed that his team’s victory in the Asia Cup qualifier is the result of some hard work. The last time Hong Kong won a tournament was nearly seven years ago when they emerged as the champions of the 2011 ICC World Cricket League Division Three at their home ground, beating Papua New Guinea in the final.

Rath revealed that Hong Kong will not make many changes to the squad that won the Asia Cup qualifier and bring in a young squad.

The Asia Cup teams will start to arrive in the UAE from September 9 and begin training from Monday at Dubai Sport City’s ICC Academy facility. Vijay Sajjanhar, Dubai Sports City’s Chief Financial Officer, said: “Dubai Sports City preparations for the Unimoni Asia Cup are in top gear. Over the past decade, we have had an abundance of international teams visiting and using our facility at Dubai International Stadium in Dubai Sports City. We are relying on that knowledge and expertise to put together what I believe will be the best Asia Cup to date.”

Budding cricketers training at the ICC Academy on Saturday had a close look at the Asia Cup trophy which was on display at the academy. It is the first time that these youngsters got to see this trophy up close as Asia Cup was last held in UAE some 23 years ago at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.