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Cricket players lobby to sack panel over squad selection

A delegation of 18 players and officials from the Dubai Cricket Council went to see government officials in Abu Dhabi to formally lodge their complaints.

DUBAI // Senior administrators in the Dubai Cricket Council (DCC) yesterday lobbied for the removal of the current Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) selection panel over the make-up of the national squad. A delegation of 18 players and officials went to see government officials in Abu Dhabi to formally lodge their complaints. The make-up of the UAE squad to play in the crucial ICC World Cup Qualifier in South Africa in April has been met with anger from many sections of the country's cricket fraternity, including a number of players.

Some claim a number of better players have been overlooked. Of greater concern for Abdul Razzak Kazim, the long-serving vice chairman of the DCC, is the paucity of Emirati representation. Only last week, the ECB detailed their master plan for developing the game among the indigenous population in a business model they sent to the Asian Cricket Council. The board passed a motion last year to include four UAE nationals in every squad, yet the policy has since been dispensed with. Now only Fahad al Hashmi, the Emirati seam bowler, remains in a squad otherwise peopled by Indian and Pakistani expatriates. Kazim, who formerly held the role of chief selector of the ECB, said: "Changes need to be made now. If you look at the UAE cricket team, they have been in decline for the past 11 years. The people responsible need to be kicked out." Alawi Shukri, one of the players who was overlooked and a member of the executive committee of DCC, echoed Kazim's views. He said: "We want to move on. Injustice has been done and the best thing for UAE cricket would be if these selectors are out." Reliable performers such as Mohammed Iqbal, Shadeep Silva and Shoaib Sarwar were aggrieved by their exclusion, but some of the changes in the new-look squad were forced upon the selectors. Mohammed Tauqir, the most experienced Emirati cricketer, opted out because of work commitments. Elsewhere, Rameez Shahzad, a promising youngster who established himself in the side for the first time last season, moved to England to study earlier this year. However, his move was hastened by an overwhelming disillusionment with the way the game is run in this country, according to his father, Shahzad Altaf, who opened the bowling for the UAE in their sole World Cup appearance in 1996. "He was disheartened with cricket over here and jumped at the chance to combine his studies with playing cricket in England." Dilawar Mani, who is an ECB board member and a selector, rejected the criticisms: "If you look at that list of players, 12 to 13 of them essentially selected themselves with their performances. We look at who attends nets and the individual performances and statistics, we take advice from the coaches and the physios." Colin Wells, the head coach of the national team, refused to comment. The UAE will fly to Sri Lanka on Thursday for a series of warm-up matches, before departing for South Africa on March 27. They will begin the search for one of four qualifying places at the 2011 World Cup when they play Bermuda on April 1 at Potchefstroom University. pradley@thenational.ae stregoning@thenational.ae

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