ABU DHABI // It was against Afghanistan, in the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in early 2010, when the UAE coach handed the ball to spinner Shadeep Silva and asked him to open the bowling.
Medium pacers had done the job in the previous two games, against Kenya and Ireland, and had proved expensive.
The coach at the time, Colin Wells, then tried the unusual tactic of beginning with Silva's left-arm orthodox spin.
It worked. The Sri Lankan-born bowler returned with figures of 4-0-14-2 against the Afghans.
Kabir Khan, who took over as coach for Wells, went a step further and used him as a new-ball bowler in the 50-over-a-side format, first against Namibia and then when a need arose. Aaqib Javed, the current coach, has had success with him in that role in recent games.
Silva now has sights set on helping the UAE team qualify for a major tournament.
"Cricket has given me so much and now my only wish is to play in the 2014 T20 World Cup and the 2015 World Cup," he said.
"I feel the UAE have a good chance in qualifying for both, and I hope I will get the nod as well."
Silva is thriving in the UAE team. He was the architect of their win over Afghanistan when he returned with figures of 10-3-16-3 to bowl them out for 70 in the Asian Cricket Council Elite Cup in Sharjah last November.
He bowled four overs for 11 runs against Nepal and took three for 21 in four overs against Hong Kong in the ACC T20 Cup in Nepal earlier this month.
"More than taking wickets, I have been successful to stop the run flow when the batting power play is on," Silva said.
"It has worked out well for me so far. I also open the bowling for the club team.
"Not always, because I don't want to lose that element of surprise against the other teams in the domestic competitions."
Silva hopes to be part of the UAE squad that competes in the World T20 Qualifier, to be held in the Emirates in October.
Silva was one of eight cricketers recruited by the New Medical Centre and arrived in the UAE on September 2002.
Being the eldest in a family of four boys and two girls, the offer was attractive enough for him to give up his ambitions of pursuing a cricket career in Sri Lanka.
"Apart from the economic reasons, the opportunity to work abroad and to play some cricket for my employer lured me," he said.
Silva graduated from the age-group tournaments for Kalutara District before joining Bloomfield in 1997, where he played under Sanath Jayasuriya, Roshan Mahanama, Ruwan Kalpage and Kumar Dharmasena, all former Sri Lankan Test players.
"I got a few opportunities when the main players were on national duty, but they were far and few," he said.
"So I moved to Sebastianites, close to my home, when I was approached by one of my relatives for a job in the UAE."
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