x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

All-Emirati cricket team still a dream

David East, the new Emirates Cricket Board chief executive, will have made a significant impact if can help groom world-class indigenous talent.

Dilawar Mani did much for UAE cricket but found it harder to lure Emiratis into playing cricket. Christopher Pike / The National
Dilawar Mani did much for UAE cricket but found it harder to lure Emiratis into playing cricket. Christopher Pike / The National

When David East settled at the desk of his new office as chief executive of the Emirates Cricket Board this month, he might have noticed cobwebs on some of the articles in his in-tray.

As the new boss of UAE cricket pointed out this week, he has arrived to find a sport on a relatively sound footing here. The facilities for cricket in the Emirates are the envy of a number of Test nations.

More importantly, the sport has a captive audience in this country, both in terms of active participants as well as supporters when major matches are played here. Broadly, a game in good health, then.

For all that, two age-old targets for the game's administrators here remain elusive – qualifying for a major tournament and attracting Emiratis to the sport.

It is 17 years since the UAE made its one appearance on cricket's top stage, in the 1996 World Cup.

They are already tantalisingly poised for 2015. In March, the UAE host Ireland, who they trail by three points, in the new league which offers two automatic qualifying places for the 50-over showpiece.

That part of the two-point target plan may be within touching distance, but the other remains as far away as ever.

Dilawar Mani, East's predecessor, said more than once that his dream was a national team comprising 11 Emiratis. At present they are struggling to find one. If East can find a way to empower UAE nationals to play cricket, the possibilities for the growth of the sport will be broadened at a stroke.

pradley@thenational.ae

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