x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

ACC Twenty20 Cup: Revamp plans on hold for UAE as injuries take their toll

The aftermath of the recent matches with Ireland has hampered the UAE's plans to test new talent in Nepal.

UAE have to fall back on senior players but will have a new captain in Ahmed Raza. Christopher Pike / The National
UAE have to fall back on senior players but will have a new captain in Ahmed Raza. Christopher Pike / The National

Just as UAE cricket looked set to take its biggest step yet towards a brave new national team, circumstance has intervened to dictate they have had to go back to the future.

The UAE will begin their ACC Twenty20 campaign in Nepal against Kuwait today with a side whose planned facelift has left it looking strangely familiar.

Given that certain guarantees of future progress have already been made, the stakes are relatively low for this tournament in Kathmandu.

Two teams will progress from there to play at the World Twenty20 qualifier in Dubai later this year, a competition which is the last step in trying to secure a place at the next March's main event in Bangladesh.

However, as hosts the UAE are assured of being there - meaning there will be no portentous slip ups as happened the last time this tournament was played. Back then, one loss meant the UAE's hopes of reaching the big show were scuppered at source.

As such, the intention was to use this ACC T20 to blood some new players, and recall others whose youth and fielding prowess would be valued in the 20-over format.

The best laid plans rarely do bear fruition, though.

A hard series of matches against Ireland brought with it some collateral damage.

Saqib Shah and Naemuddin Aslam, each of whom were pencilled in for important roles in Nepal, have had to withdraw from the trip due to matching shoulder injuries.

Shaiman Anwar, too, has also been cut from the tour party to Nepal after the Ireland series.

In their place the names of two UAE mainstays, Arshad Ali and Swapnil Patil, have been added, while Amjad Ali, who has been on the fringes of the team for years, gets another chance to impress.

It means more experience to lean on for the new captain, Ahmed Raza, who is leading the squad for the first time in the absence of the long-serving Khurram Khan.

"As a leader, every individual is different," Raza said. "When you have that authority given to you, you are answerable to yourself.

"If we lose or if we win, I take that all as part of the learning curve.

"I have learnt a lot playing with these guys and captaining them, as well as making my own decisions.

"Sometimes it goes right sometimes it goes wrong but in the end you learn how to make decisions."

The T20 tournament in Nepal does provide a first glimpse in competitive action of Adil Reyal, the new all-rounder from Farooq CC.

Aaqib Javed, the coach, deems the 22-year-old Sri Lankan an "outstanding" addition to the side, particularly because of his capabilities in the field.

Raza will also be happy to have a new live wire to help ease the fielding burden that has usually relied heavily on himself and Rohan Mustafa until now.

"T20 demands young legs," Raza said. "You need someone who can be agile in the field, bowl three overs, maybe bat at No 7.

"Players who are bits and pieces cricketers start with T20 then establish themselves in the longer versions."

pradley@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE