Some of the UAE's Under 19 World Cup hopefuls embark on their first overseas tour and competition in the Asian Cricket Council U19 Elite Cup in Malaysia from May 3 to 11, an experience coach Aaqib Javed insisted would be of great benefit to them.
"This is going to be a real test for them, but I am quite confident that they will want to prove to the other teams that they are not playing in the World Cup as the host, but on merit," the former Pakistan fast bowler said.
The UAE meet Afghanistan in the opener and Aaqib feels they will be the best team in a group which also includes Hong Kong, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.
"Afghanistan will definitely be the toughest team to beat because they are full-time and street-smart cricketers. Hong Kong are the other, but we are hopeful of a good showing," he said.
The UAE age-group squad has been training and playing in domestic competitions for the last five months, but this will be their first time on tour and they are feeling a bit under-prepared.
"We have hardly had four practice sessions ahead of the tour because of their school examinations," Aaqib said.
"I would have loved to have more time with them, but this has been the trend, even with the senior national team.
"Still, I believe they have been training at their academies to stay in good shape."
Aaqib selected a pool of players five months ago, conducted a few training camps and since then, they have been playing as the Emirates Cricket Board Greens in the domestic competitions around the country.
"I never spent any time with the players, apart from the training we have had, and this tour will provide me with that opportunity," he said.
"A tour is the best way for a coach and the players to interact and gel as a team."
Aaqib does not guarantee any of them a permanent place in the World Cup squad, though.
"When I first took charge of the national team, I had around 20 players, and now we have around 50, and the players are fitter and hungrier to play," he said.
"And it would be the same with the age-group team. Everyone will have to fight for their places. This is the environment I want to have in place."
Aaqib wants to give the returning team from Malaysia time as well those who missed the tour due to examinations before commencing training in June.
He has no plans to take them on tour.
"We are lucky because many teams, both affiliate and full member nations, would like to come down to the UAE to play some friendly games as they want to acclimatize to the conditions here," he said.
Aaqib was also realistic of his team's results in the World Cup, saying: "We can't compare our team with the Test-playing nations, but if we keep working hard, perhaps, we can close that gap."
Al Hamad Division One
Zeeshan Khan struck 57 and took four for 28 in 10 overs to played a key role in Cost Cutters' 70-run victory over Interface in the Al Hamad Division One tournament in Abu Dhabi.
Zeeshan's older sibling, Khurram, the UAE captain, was among runs too, smashing 53 not out, to lead Wings to a seven-wicket win over Abu Dhabi Airport Services.
Arfan Haider, who hit 168 and shared a record 400-run partnership for the first wicket in a game week, grabbed four for 27 in eight overs to script William Hare Abu Dhabi Gymkhana's 22-run triumph over Alubond Tigers.
Pizza Twenty20 Cup
Faizan Asif thumped 109 to guide Ibsons to a 33-run victory over Alubond Tigers and passage to the semi-finals in the Debonair Pizza Twenty20 Cup at the Fairgrounds Oval in Dubai.
Danube Lions clinched a thriller over William Hare Abu Dhabi Gymkhana in a low- scoring game to join Ibsons in the last four.
The Lions won by one wicket with four deliveries to spare with Andrei Berenfer paving the way with 32 not out in their team's 69 for nine after Gymkhana were skittled out for 67.
Superstars Twenty20 Cup
Salman Baber hit a swift 77 not out to lead G-Force to a 10-wicket win over Calicut Tigers in the Superstars Twenty20 Cup at the Fairgrounds Oval in Dubai.
Baber smashed half a dozen sixes and an equal number of fours as he dominated the 113-run partnership for the first wicket with Zamin Jalil, who chipped in with 31 off 28 deliveries, in reply to the Tigers 110 for six.
The ICC Global Cricket Academy will stage a Midnight League as part of three indoor tournaments, the first of the three editions from May 9 to 24.
"We believe we have something for everyone wanting to play cricket during the warmest part of the year," said David Jenkins, the ICC GCA general manager.
The Midnight League has a total purse of Dh 23,500 for all three competitions and is part of the ICC GCA's new concept in this year's programme of indoor cricket.
More details may be had from the ICC GCA or by calling 04 448 1355 or 050 640 7818.
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE