DUBAI // The UAE national team will be hoping that Dubai's air-traffic control does them a favour when they begin their ACC Trophy challenge this morning.
Khurram Khan, the Emirates Airline flight purser who is the long-serving captain of the side, is due to land on a flight from the United States at 5am.
Once the landing is navigated, the veteran all-rounder will have to traverse the labyrinthine traffic diversions currently in force in Sharjah to make it to the cricket stadium to toss up at 9am ahead of the tournament opener against Nepal.
The 41-year-old captain is well used to such hectic preparations for major tournaments, as are each of his colleagues, who have to worry about their day jobs before their cricket.
It is a facet of daily life of cricket in the Emirates which Aaqib Javed, the head coach of the national team, is still getting used to, however.
In his previous post as the bowling coach for Pakistan, he could safely expect the likes of Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal and Abdul Razzaq to be ready at his beck and call.
Today, however, he conducted the final training session ahead of the ACC Trophy without either his captain or Mohammed Tauqir, his vice-captain, who had to work with his job in banking.
While he does acknowledge his feelings of frustration with the part-time status of his new charges initially, he has quickly fostered a keen sense of respect for their attitude towards representing the UAE.
"This guy is so committed – and so used to doing it," Aaqib said of his captain. "I am sure he will be the most committed player on the ground straight away.
"These are the kind of characters you need in the team. My frustration in the beginning was really high with this having worked with Younis Khan, Umar Gul, Mohammed Asif.
"To come down to this level, a coach needs to be able to vary what he does up and down. You have to lead them if you really want to convince them."
Rather than allow the players to use their full-time jobs as an excuse for missing training, the former Pakistan pacer has used it as a way to coax them to the nets.
"Before they always made the excuse that they have been working eight hours," said Aaqib, who took over from Kabir Khan, another former Pakistan bowler who will be in charge of Afghanistan during this tournament, earlier this year.
"I'd say to them, 'Bloody hell, you have been sat at your desk for eight hours - you are tense, you definitely need to do some exercise to help you tomorrow morning'.
"But I do understand. I am not like a schoolteacher, I am flexible. I don't believe in forcing things, but I do try to convince them. I'll never scold anyone, but I tell them to try to reach this level and they have been doing it. So far, so good."
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