Saqib Ali, the recently deposed ex-captain of the UAE, is urging the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) to do whatever it takes to keep hold of the current coach Vasbert Drakes. The former West Indies all-rounder Drakes will officially end his short-term stint in charge of the national team at the conclusion of the ACC Trophy, which starts on Friday.
His three-month deal with the ECB fitted conveniently with the off-season in the Caribbean, where he currently holds one of the plum jobs in West Indies cricket, that of head coach of Barbados. However, Drakes has quickly become attached to his temporary charges, and intimated last week that he would be willing to forsake his role with Barbados to stay on in Sharjah long-term. The UAE will play in the ICC World Cup Qualifier on home soil next April, and Drakes, pictured right, is keen to stay on and marshal them through that.
Saqib welcomed the chance for some much needed continuity at the helm of the team, who have had five different head coaches since their last aborted attempt to qualify for a World Cup. "Lots of coaches have come and then left, and it is difficult to get consistency," said Saqib, 30, who plays for New Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi. "When a new coach comes, we are back to zero again. I hope we will be able to look forward, and just have one coach, who can look forward as much as possible.
"They need to know the players, and make plans according to what the players need." Saqib passed the captaincy armband back to the UAE's most experienced player, Khurram Khan, ahead of their ACC Trophy defence in Malaysia. Even though they are led by two 37-year-olds - Khurram and his deputy Mohammed Tauqir - the latest UAE Trophy squad still has a very youthful appearance. The two university students, Rameez Shahzad, 20, and Qasim Zubair, 20, as well as Shoaib Sarwar 21, have all been handed recalls.
Saqib believes they represent the bright future of the national team. He added: "If a side is going to be successful in cricket, you need to have youngsters in the side. "The young players need to try hard and try to get better. If they try hard to impress, then they will be able to achieve. It is a good step forward for UAE cricket." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org