Only days after Anshuman Rath announced he has switched allegiance to India and would therefore not be available for selection for Hong Kong henceforth, sensational news has emerged from the embattled territory that Babar Hayat has also declared himself unavailable and will be also replaced in Hong Kong’s T20 World Cup Qualifier squad after former skipper Tanwir Afzal reportedly led a mini-revolt after not being selected for the tour to Oman and UAE.
Afzal has since denied this, asserting players had their own reasons for withdrawing (not directly related to selections) in a South China Morning Post interview.
Alongside Hayat, fast bowling brothers Ehsan Nawaz and Tanveer Ahmed who were in the 15-man squad, and Afzal – who had been dropped and named as a reserve – have withdrawn themselves from selection consideration and have been released from their Cricket Hong Kong contracts with immediate effect.
Numerous sources had told Emerging Cricket that after Afzal was not included in the touring squad he then enlisted the group of Hayat, Nawaz and Ahmed who made representations to new head coach Trent Johnston, offering an ultimatum that Afzal should be added to the touring party or all three selected players would withdraw.
Eerily reminiscent of the period leading up to World Cricket League Division 3 in 2011 when recently appointed head coach Charlie Burke dropped a number of aging senior players who then tried a similar tactic, Johnston – who has only been in the role for three weeks – and with the support of CHK, also refused to give in to the revolting players.
After emergency meetings with all players concerned on Monday evening in Hong Kong, it was confirmed to Emerging Cricket by CHK CEO Justin Pearce that all four have formally withdrawn their availability for selection and the contracts of Afzal, Nawaz and Ahmed have been rendered null and void. (Babar Hayat had not been contracted.)
Collectively, the selected trio had played 76 ‘full’ limited overs Internationals for Hong Kong. Hayat accounts for 48 of those matches and also averages over 71 in First Class cricket, including a double hundred scored in the final round of the 2015-17 Intercontinental Cup.
Afzal has 41 white ball internationals for Hong Kong and is known for his metronomic line and length and big-hitting late in the order but had recently experienced a dip in form. During World Cricket League Division 2 2019 in Namibia in April his 2 wickets from his 37.3 overs across the six games came at 101.5 while going for just under 5.5 an over.
Hong Kong’s last T20Is were played during the ‘Desert T20’ in the UAE in January 2017.
While there are reserve places nominated in the original selection, it is understood coach Johnston will be making final selections on the back on the ongoing CHK T20 Premier League between its major clubs, and the revised final squad will be named later this week.