When Hong Kong’s Munir Dar came to bat on Thursday night, the score read 50/5. After getting dismissed for 108, Bangladesh had clawed their way back in the game. The locals jostling for space in the packed stands had once again found their voice. Dar, a true blue amateur like most of his team mates, wasn’t used to playing with a deafening noise in the background or against quality bowling. The Hong Kong League, where Dar is a star, has half-serious part-time cricketers with mediocre skills.
But Dar stepped it up. He rose to the occasion and helped Hong Kong to its most famous win. His 27-ball 36, which included three fours and a six, handed the Associate side to its first win over a Test nation (in the warm-ups, they had beaten Zimbabwe). This historic triumph was made possible by a side that has a distinct Pakistan flavour to it. Das is among the 11 players, in the 15-member Hong Kong squad, who were born in Pakistan.
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Dar, 39, was born Gujranwala but now works for a diamond company in Hong Kong. The man of the moment hasn’t had the time to celebrate his success since the team took the flight from Chittagong to Dhaka, hours after the game. And after a short stay in the Bangladesh’s capital, the team was to fly out to Hong Kong. “I am playing a match for my club on Sunday and the next day, on Monday, I will be back to work. All the cricket in Hong Kong is played on weekends, so for us to beat a Test side in the World T20 is a huge achievement,” Dar said.
Dar, actually, had a lot of stake going into the last league game. Time was running out for the aging cricketer. The all-rounder was playing this tournament purely as a batsman as his left-arm spin had been deemed illegal during the ICC World T20 Qualifier.
Talking about the odds against him he says, “There was dew on the field, the ball was skidding through. We have not played spinners of the quality of Shakib Al-Hasan or Abdur Razzak. But we knew we could pull off an upset. We had beaten Zimbabwe and Netherlands in the warm-up game.”
Pacer Tanwir Afzal, who dismissed Tamim Iqbal and Sabbir Rahman in his first over, like Dar, has roots in Pakistan. He played for the same Rawalpindi club that had in its ranks a certain Mohammad Amir, the prodigal fast bowler who is presently undergoing a ban for his involvement in a spot-fixing scandal. Afzal was part of the Pakistan’s Asia Cup U-19 squad that played an Indian team that had Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja. Afzal has also shared the dressing room with Umar Akmal, Ahmed Shahzad, Junaid Khan and Sohail Tanvir.
Like several other top Pakistan pacers, Afzal got initiated by playing tape-ball cricket and later switched to the leather ball. He says he was all set to make it to the senior side but lost out to boys with ‘connections’. “When I used to play for the Pakistan Under-19 squad I would bowl at an average speed of 135 kmph. Amir and I started our careers almost at the same time. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it further. A friend of mine advised me to play cricket in Malaysia. After I played against Hong Kong, they invited me to play for them. Thursday’s win tells me that my journey from Pakistan to Malaysia to Hong Kong was worth the trouble,” Afzal said.
While Dar and Afzal moved from Pakistan to pursue their dreams, the Ahmed brothers — opening batsmen Irfan and left-arm spinner Nadeem — are second generation citizens.