DUBAI // The UAE will be represented by a squad made up exclusively of Emirati cricketers for the first time as they prepare to field a side at next year's Asian Games (Asiad) in China. As per Olympic rules, only passport holders are permitted to represent the country in the Asiad, meaning the vast majority of the expatriate-dominated national team will be ineligible to play. Of the 24-man squad named ahead of next month's Asian Cricket Council Twenty20, just four are Emirati.
The UAE now have until March 2010 to submit a side to play in the Twenty20 event at the Games in Guangzhou, and leading Emirati players are already preparing for the challenge. Salman Farooq, the off-spinner who is driving the initiative, said: "If a UAE national is playing for his own country, he is going to have that bit more passion than the others. "If we can create an awareness that there is a sport called cricket and people can see that Emiratis are playing it and being recognised by their country, it will help."
The small Emirati cricket community decided to take action after reading that players in Oman are readying a side for the Games, which are to be staged in November 2010. Alawi Shukri, a batsman who has captained the UAE in age-group cricket, hopes to host the Omanis as part of a competition in Al Ain at the end of November, which will also include Kuwait and Bahrain. Shukri said: "If we can play derbies like this it will generate lots of awareness among nationals."
The Emirates Cricket Board chief executive, Dilawar Mani, said: "It is crucial that we get Emiratis to play. It may not be a passion of theirs at this point but there are some of them playing in the junior teams and that is something positive. At the end of the day, our aim would be to create a squad of Emirati cricketers for the upcoming Asian Games." email@example.com