DUBAI // The UAE are hoping a combination of pace and spin will prove to be a potent weapon when they commence their Intercontinental Cup campaign against Kenya later this month.
The selectors named five spinners and three quick bowlers in the 14-man party for the four-day match against Kenya on July 28, the start of a seven-match programme over the space of two years which is designed to help teams prepare for the possibility of one-day playing Test cricket.
The UAE will prepare for the Cup match with two 50-over matches against Kenya, games which coach Kabir Khan will use to assess which bowlers will be best suited to the conditions in Nairobi. Kabir has high hopes for his pace trio of Amjad Javed, Shoaib Sarwar and Irfan Sajjad.
"We are taking three quicks and I believe they are the best," Kabir said. "Sarwar is quick, while Sajjad and Javed swing the ball. We are playing towards the end of July and I believe the conditions at that time will favour the swing bowlers.
"Anyway, I wanted bowlers who can take wickets, and not ones who bowl defensively and stop the flow of runs. I want attacking bowlers and I believe we have picked the right ones."
Mohammed Lokhandwala, one of the selectors, feels the team's strength will lie in the slow bowling department, hence why Khurram Khan, Mohammed Tauqir, Nasir Aziz, Shadeep Silva and Ahmed Raza have all been chosen.
"Our strength is spin," Lokhandwala said. "We have had three left-arm spinners bowling in tandem and we have caused teams a lot of problems. Then we have Arshad Ali with his leg-spinners. He has the uncanny ability to pick up wickets when the others are unable to."
The UAE earned their spot in the eight-team event, along with Namibia, after winning the World Cricket League Division Two title in April, a win which would moved them up to 17th in the world rankings. They should therefore travel to Africa with spirits high but they will mindful Kenya are one of the strongest teams outside the Test-playing nations and have appeared at the five World Cups, including a run to the semi-finals of the 2003 event in South Africa. Captained by Khurram, UAE will also be out for a modicum of revenge after they lost the last Intercontinental Cup match between the two sides, in Sharjah in 2008, by 81 runs in a tense finish.
"We lost the last game against Kenya, but we were not outplayed," said Kabir who took over the role of head coach from Colin Wells last year. "It was a close match and I believe we can do better this time. We still have a lot of players who played the last time and they can only learn from the experience."
Bhakthiyar Hamid Palekar, the opening batsman, is the one change from the title-winning side in April but Naeemuddin Aslam and Swapnil Patil are not available due to personal reasons.
"To be honest, you cannot really make much changes to a team which has won a title," Kabir said. "So we are going with our best players. There is a lot of experience there and I am sure we will do well."
In contrast, the Kenya team has been shaken-up after a dismal 2011 World Cup campaign. Many of the long-established players like Jimmy Kamande, Peter Ongondo, Thomas Odoyo and Maurice Ouma have not been offered new central contracts and they could be missing against the UAE.
ICC Intercontinental Cup facts and fixtures
• The ICC Intercontinental Cup has quickly grown in stature and profile since its inception seven years ago. The ICC’s premier first-class tournament is an integral part of the Associate Members’ cricket schedule.
• There will be a total of US$254,000 in prize money for the Associate and Affiliate teams taking part in the ICC Intercontinental Cup 2011-13 with US$100,000 for the winners and US$40,000 for the runners-up.
• Teams finishing in third and fourth place with receive US$20,000 and US$10,000 respectively while an outright win by any team during the course of the round-robin stage will see it walk away with US$3,000 per match.
• Having previously been designed around a two-group, three-day format, the event then evolved into an eight-team, round-robin and truly global tournament featuring four-day cricket which gives those teams who do not play Test cricket the chance to experience the longer form of the game.
This year’s format will include eight teams - Afghanistan, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, Netherlands, Scotland, Namibia and United Arab Emirates.
July: Kenya (away)
Sept / Oct: Afghanistan (home)
Mar / Apri: Scotland (home)
Jun / July: Netherlands (away)
Mar / April: Ireland (home)
Jul / Aug: Canada (away)
Sep / Oct: Nambia (home)