DUBAI // The UAE’s cricketers will utilise coach Aaqib Javed’s experience of the playing conditions in New Zealand when they compete in the ICC World Cup Qualifier, which starts on Monday.
They fly out of Dubai on Tuesday morning full of hope as they bid for a place at the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. If they finish in the top two in the 10-team tournament, they will be playing in their first World Cup since 1996.
“I have been to New Zealand five or six times as a player and have a pretty good idea of the wickets,” said Aaqib, the former Pakistan fast bowler.
“It will not be scary with the ball moving and seaming prodigiously at this time of the year.
“We have a good seam attack which we didn’t use fully in the recent World Twenty20 Qualifier in the Emirates. In New Zealand, we may use them against teams that play our spinners well, particularly Nepal.
“We have experienced batters too to cope with the seaming deliveries. Overall, we have prepared well for this competition, both physically and mentally, and are ready for the matches.”
The UAE squad has been training at indoor and outdoor facilities at the ICC Global Cricket Academy for three weeks.
They begin with two official warm-up matches against Uganda at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui on Friday and the Netherlands the next day at the same venue.
“The original plan was to travel early so we could play some extra games but the majority of the players had problems in sorting out leave issues with their employers,” Aaqib said when asked why the UAE were travelling so late.
The majority of the teams have been in New Zealand for the past two weeks. “The players should be able to adapt to the time change and conditions in 36 hours or 48 maximum. This is the norm nowadays with any team,” Aaqib said.
“So there are no issues [that would cause] our players to complain to the time change and conditions in New Zealand.
“The two warm-up games will be very useful to us as that would be the only preparation in New Zealand, apart from the training, we would have.”
The UAE meet Nepal in their first qualifying match in Group A on Monday and Canada two days later, both at the Mainpower Oval, Rangiora. Next up for them are Scotland on January 19 and Hong Kong four days later, both at the Queenstown Events Centre.
Group B comprises of the Netherlands, Kenya, Namibia, Papua New Guinea and Uganda.
“If we go by our rating we are the No 1 in our group,” Aaqib said of the fact the UAE finished third in the World Cricket League Championship behind Ireland and Afghanistan, who both earned spots at the World Cup.
“Of course we need to respect all teams and play true to our potential to achieve our objectives.”
The 10 teams are divided into two groups with the top three sides from each group progressing to the Super Six stage.
The top two sides from the Super Six stage will reach the final and qualify for the 14-team World Cup.
Shadeep Silva, the left-arm spinner, said the thought of playing in the World Cup was enough to motivate the entire squad.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to play on cricket’s biggest stage,” the 35-year-old Sri Lankan said.
“We are not even guaranteed a place but I just can’t stop dreaming of playing in the World Cup. The sheer thought motivates me and I assume it is the same with every player in the squad.
“Hopes are sky high. I don’t know about the others, but this is my first trip to New Zealand. Obviously I am very excited. However, I have a big role to play. Performance is the key for me and I am ready for it.”