DUBAI // The national cricket coach will be in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain this weekend to identify players with the potential to form the backbone of the UAE side at the Under 19 World Cup they will host in 2014.
Aaqib Javed has been given the task of overseeing the youth and senior side after replacing Kabir Khan and building a competitive team who can hold their own against the U19s from the Test playing nations.
"I want to give this message to the ICC and to the UAE people that we are not going to play the 2014 World Cup as hosts, but we want to show we are there on merit, on our talent," Aaqib said. "I want to make sure the U19 team is ready because we have a good two years to prepare."
The former head coach of Pakistan's National Cricket Academy has already been on talent-spotting trips to cricket academies in Dubai and Sharjah, and will spend Friday and Saturday in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain running the rule over junior cricketers.
"I have visited almost all the private academies here and we have shortlisted a few players," Aaqib said.
"I want to build a close relationship with the nurseries of cricket. I have already told them whenever they see a talent, they can call us and send the boy to [us]."
A core group of players are already training every alternate day, excluding weekends, at the Global Academy in Dubai but Aaqib wants to supplement the squad and add physical conditioning to the existing regime of net-sessions and fielding drills.
"In the next two months, we will make sure that everybody is involved," Aaqib said. "We don't want to miss anyone. After two months, our training will be more focused.
Aaqib will call on the spine of the U19 side who played in the ACC tournament in Thailand last year. The UAE failed to progress from their group, finishing behind Nepal and Afghanistan and thus have never finished in the top two of the continental championship to earn automatic qualification for the World Cup qualifiers
Aaqib will need to integrate new faces into the 2011 team who beat Thailand as five of them will be over the age of 19 in two year's time. He could call on the players from the U16 side who finished second in the ACC Challenge Cup in March.
Aaqib will hope those players remain in the system and do not return home or move to the UK or North American to further their education.
"That's the shame of it," Dilawar Mani, the chief executive of the Emirates Cricket Board, said. "What happens is we lose nine or 10 of the players and obviously that affects our performance. Our Under 19 is mostly Under 17 and at this stage, two years make a huge difference."
The ECB are working on a plan to prevent this talent drain by seeking funding to introduce cricket scholarships. Residency laws do not allow the parents to sponsor their child once they turn 18 and the cost for expatriates from the subcontinent of continuing higher education in the UAE is prohibitive.
"We are trying to overcome that through various means," Mani said. "We've got multiple initiatives right now where we will try to get a retention programme in place. Obviously, we can't control all aspects of it. If somebody's father wants him to be an engineer and that vocational training is not available here, then we are going to lose them anyway.
"But if someone is going in for a standard graduation, we are going to try to retain them. Obviously this requires certain scholarship programmes and a selection criteria as well. But that is going multiple steps ahead, that's ambitious. At this point of time, we are looking at the right funding for it to ensure we are able to launch such a programme."