ABU DHABI // Kabir Khan, the UAE coach, is confident his side have a good chance of winning the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Twenty20 qualifier in Nepal even if some of his players are a little bit ring rusty.
The top three sides from the 10-team Nepal qualifier will join Afghanistan, who has already qualified, in the 16-team ICC Twenty20 World Cup qualifier to be played in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah from March 13 to 24.
"Our priority of course is to first qualify to the next level of the qualifier, but winning this tournament is our objective," said Kabir, before boarding the plane from the Abu Dhabi International Airport yesterday.
"We are travelling with a very positive frame of mind to win all our matches at this level. If we want to do well in the ICC event which we host, it would be really good to return unbeaten from the ACC qualifier.
"The ACC qualifying tournament is an ideal platform for us to do well at the next level and winning it will give a massive lift for my players. And this will be our objective."
"We trained less than we would have wanted to because of the unavailability of the grounds," he said. "We managed to play a four to five warm up games against local teams and spent some quality time together to mentally prepare the players."
Even so, the UAE are expected to clinch one of the three spots to play on their home turf in an event from that two sides will head to Sri Lanka for the T20 World Cup in June.
The UAE have been drawn in Group B with Nepal, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Bhutan, who they play on the opening day of the competition on Saturday, and a meeting with Afghanistan, the pre-tournament favourites and the side Kabir used to coach, seems likely at some stage of the tournament.
The UAE came within three wickets of upsetting Afghanistan in the four-day Intercontinental Cup match in Sharjah last month and followed that up with a 2-0 whitewash in the ODI series.
Kabir, however, is guarding against complacency. "We shouldn't get carried away from the success we had against Afghanistan. The T20 format is different and we can't take any team for granted. If we do, then we are in trouble."
Saqib Ali, the UAE all-rounder, is still recovering from a hamstring injury he suffered during a practice game against the West Indies in early October.
"He is a player I would like to have in the team in any format of the game but unfortunately he has still not recovered," Kabir said. "This team is a good combination of experience and young players, and I am happy of their progress."