Dubai // Kabir Khan, the UAE coach, is plotting a course to lead his "underperforming" side to a place among the top associate nations and qualification for the next World Twenty20 cup.
The first challenge for his team comes next month when the International Cricket Council's World Cricket League Division Two starts in Dubai on April 8.
The UAE will play Namibia on the opening day at the Dubai Sports City, and will meet Uganda, Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong and Bermuda later in the six-nation tournament. The teams finishing in the top four in the tournament will receive dedicated ICC High Performance Grants, and two of these four sides, as determined by the ICC Development Committee, will get a ticket to the eight-team Intercontinental Cup.
"I have a strong belief that this team is not a Division Two team," said Kabir, who previously guided Afghanistan to the 2010 World Twenty20. "It is a Division One team and it should be in the top four places among associate nations.
"I think Afghanistan and Ireland are good teams, but when it comes to Kenya, Canada, Scotland and other teams, we should be there in the top six somewhere.
"I always believed that this team has underperformed, I don't know due to what reasons. But talent wise, we should be in the top tier.
"I have got all my hopes that if the players perform to their ability, we can go to Division One, first of all, and from thereon our journey starts towards getting a place in the top-four or six over there.
"These are our short-term goals. We should finish among the top two in this tournament and qualify for the Intercontinental Cup. To qualify for the Intercontinental Cup is very important because then you have your cricket running all year round.
"Eight teams are playing four day matches against each other, which is a very good test of cricketers.
"Another tournament which is very important for us is the World T20 qualifiers. It is early next year, so we have enough time to prepare for it. We want to qualify for that because I personally think we have a very good 50-overs and 20-overs team and we should be playing in the World T20."
Squads for the upcoming tournament were announced yesterday. The 14-member UAE squad, led by Khurram Khan, has a few new faces and Kabir is pleased with the composition of the side.
"I had a really long meeting with the selectors and, in the end, I got what I needed," he said.
"Irfan Sajjad, a medium pacer, has come in … a promising young boy of 21 years. He is a six-feet tall guy and has a very good out-swinger.
"Another off-spinner, Nasir Aziz, has come into the squad as well. He bowls a lovely 'doosra' and obviously he has been bowling very well and getting wickets.
"So there are a few new faces, which we needed as I always believe fresh blood should be pumped in. I would say it is a very good balanced side according to the conditions."
With three matches being played every match day - one at the Dubai Cricket Stadium and two at the Global Cricket Academy - the teams will be playing six matches in eight days.
The hectic schedule, coupled with the April heat, could test the endurance of the visiting players.
Kabir is confident his players will cope and he is planning on using spin as his main weapon.
"Looking at the conditions in April - the pitch and the weather conditions - the selection committee along with me have decided that we are going to use our spinners more than our pacers because the wickets at that time won't be helping the pacers a lot," he said.
"So we have a strong spin-bowling department, with a few good pacers as well. Our batting, throughout the time we have been an associate country, has been good and obviously we still have got very good batsmen in the middle order. We have introduced some top-order batsmen."
Kabir is also pleased to be playing Namibia in the first match.
"Namibia have been the champions in the Shield Cup and obviously they have been playing very good cricket for the last few years," he said. "For any coach, they would be a bit of a worry.
"I personally think for us it is very good that we are playing them in the first game. It can go either way. We have got the capacity to beat them and we are very well prepared.
"They are a good team and you have to respect that. Obviously no one has any doubt that this is the toughest game in the group. So it is obviously very good to play them at the start and let other teams be worrying about them, and not us."
Khurram Khan (captain), Mohammed Touqir, Naeem Aslam, Saqib Ali, Arshad Ali, Amjad Ali, Shadeep Silva, Amjad Javed, Nasir Aziz, Qassim Zubair, Ahmed Raza, Swanpil Patil, Irfan Ahmed Sajjad, Shaiman Anwar