SHARJAH // The UAE will bid to win back their ACC Trophy crown next month with just one Emirati in their ranks, despite the attempts of Asian cricket's governing body to dilute the dominance of expatriate-full national teams. The Asian Cricket Council passed a rule for at least three players per starting XI to be passport-holders for the country they represent. However, at present, this applies solely to age-group cricket - the UAE had to withdraw from the ACC Under 16 Trophy in Nepal earlier this month. The Emirates Cricket Board were disappointed by the new eligibility regulations, citing the fact that aspiring national team cricketers may have been born and lived in the country all their lives yet are still ruled ineligible.
Salman Farooq, the Dubai-based off-spinner, is the only Emirati in the senior squad for the trip to Kuwait later this month. There are, however, five other players in the 14-man line-up born in the UAE. The UAE have a rich history in the ACC Trophy, the continent's premier 50-over competition for non-Test playing nations. They used to consider the title as their personal possession, yet gave up their crown when they lost out to Hong Kong in a rain-affected final in Kuala Lumpur two years ago.
The UAE open their campaign against Bhutan on April 1 and then face Afghanistan the following day. Khurram Khan, the captain who guided the team to the last four in the World Twenty20 qualifiers recently, is optimistic. "Playing in the ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers was a great learning curve and the experienced gained there will hold us in good stead, even though the format of this tournament is of 50 overs a side," he said.
"We have a great respect for all teams competing in the tournament and we will have to be on our top of game if we aim to finish on a high note." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org