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Saqib Ali, the UAE batsman, scored 690 runs in the Intercontinental Cup in 2008 despite a poor showing from his team.
Saqib Ali, the UAE batsman, scored 690 runs in the Intercontinental Cup in 2008 despite a poor showing from his team.

Kabir Khan seeks to improve UAE's Intercontinental record

Coach believes his side have ability to take limited-overs form to the four-day game despite modest performances in the tournament.

SHARJAH // Kabir Khan, the national coach, wants his team to go out and prove they are better than their Intercontinental Cup record suggests.

The UAE have turned in modest performances in four previous appearances in the International Cricket Council's premier tournament for non-Test playing nations, known as the I Cup, which gets underway later this month.

"We don't have a very good track record in the I Cup, so we have a point to prove," said Kabir. "We want to show we are a much better side than the last few times we participated in it.

"We are a good limited-overs side and we need to prove we can play four-day cricket as well. I don't want to give the example, but Afghanistan have proven it. They won the I Cup on their first appearance in the tournament [last year].

"With our potential, I believe we can do it. It is just the mental set-up. If we are mentally prepared, we can do it."

The UAE reached the semi-finals of the first two cup tournaments, at home in 2004 and in Namibia the following year, but failed to win a single point in 2006, finishing at the bottom of a group that included Ireland, Scotland and Namibia.

In the 2007/08 season, Saqib Ali topped the batting charts with 690 runs, but his side finished sixth in the eight-team competition.

After missing out on the last I Cup, the UAE return to the league following their ICC Division Two win in April this year.

Matches are played over two years and the UAE start their campaign with a visit to Kenya, where they will play two 50-over matches on July 25 and 26, before the four-day match starts on July 28.

Their second round of matches will be against Afghanistan in October and the team will later meet Ireland, Canada, Netherlands, Scotland and Namibia.

The UAE won the six-team, 50-over Division Two title without losing a game and Kabir wants his team to prove they are as good in the longer version of the game.

Kabir has been training hard with a group of 24 hopefuls at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium since June 28.

The selectors will meet today to decide the final 14 for the Kenya tour and the coach admits it will be taking a step into the unknown for many of the players as no four-day cricket is played domestically in the country.

"We have been playing limited overs cricket, a bit of 20 and 30-overs tournaments around the UAE," Kabir said. "The I Cup is a four-day game, which requires different skills. So we need to find players who are suited to that version."

With the UAE playing two limited-over matches on the tour as well, Kabir admits their focus will be on finding the right blend of players, good in both formats of the game.

Mazhar Khan, the administrator of the Emirates Cricket Board, backed his coach's plans for the tour and said there could be some new faces in the team.

"We have got a core team now, but we could have a few new faces as well," he said.

"We are always looking to give opportunities to our youngsters or people who have just qualified, or people who have been knocking on the door."

One area of the team that the selectors will be looking to fortify is the pace bowling department.

In Division Two, the UAE employed virtually an all-spin attack, with Amjad Javed being the lone paceman.

Given the livelier wickets they will encounter in Kenya, the likes of Shoaib Sarwar, Wasim Bari and Irfan Sajjad could be in the frame. The coach was also excited about a new player, who impressed in the nets with his raw pace.

The bowler has been asked to bring his passport so that the Emirates Cricket Board can verify if he is eligible for selection.

"In four-day cricket, you need 20 wickets to win a game," Khan said. "You need to get a team out twice. That's the thing I have been working on.

"We want to produce quality attacking bowlers, who could get you wicket.

"We have got very good bowlers who can maintain a very good economy rate. They don't go for a lot of runs. But we also need bowlers who can also go through defences."

 

arizvi@thenational.ae

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