The build-up to India versus Hong Kong could not be more different to India versus Pakistan. The buzz around the training grounds, press conferences and the match – in terms of ticket sales and anticipation – is extremely low-key. It’s almost as though everyone’s just waiting for next Sunday, when India and Pakistan are likely to face off in the second of three possible meetings at this Asia Cup.
Hong Kong’s cricket structure is possibly smaller than what you would find even in a tier-2 city in India. They have a pool of 20 players to choose from at the best of times. In comparison, India’s senior squad has a pool of 40 that plays simultaneously in different countries. And then there are 20 others who are part of the ‘A’ tour programmes, all training to be match ready. The gulf Hong Kong have to bridge is monumental.
India had optional nets on the eve of the game, mindful of the heat and giving their senior players a break. Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Hardik Pandya and Bhuvneshwar Kumar took the day off as the rest of the squad trained in the afternoon heat.
Hong Kong have preferred to train at night. They are coming off a steady diet of games – at least 30 – in the past three months alone in Namibia, Uganda Zimbabwe, Jersey and Oman. But everything pales in comparison to the opportunity ahead of them on Wednesday.
India WWWLW (last five completed matches; most recent first)
Hong Kong WWWLW
India have spoken about their willingness to experiment. Don’t be surprised if they make some changes.
India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 KL Rahul, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Rishabh Pant (wk), 5 Deepak Hooda, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Dinesh Karthik, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Avesh Khan, 10 Ravi Bishnoi, 11 Arshdeep Singh
Hong Kong don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing, and will stick to their first XI that played the qualifiers in Oman.
Hong Kong (probable): 1 Nizakat Khan, 2 Babar Hayat, 3 Yasmin Murtaza, 4 Kinchit Shah, 5 Scott McKechnie (wk), 6 Haroon Arshad, 7 Aizaz Khan, 8 Zeeshan Ali, 9 Ehsan Khan, 10 Ayush Shukla, 11 Mohammad Ghazanfar
A fresh, hard surface will be used for Wednesday’s game and that should mean bounce for the bowlers. The biggest factor, though, has been the absence of dew in Dubai, which has reduced the difficulty of bowling second. And then there’s the extreme heat, which caused delays and brought the over-rate penalty into play in both innings of the India-Pakistan game.