Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 30 May 2020

Ahmed Raza backs UAE young guns to push team onto next level

Captain says teen talent deserve their chance after being called-up for the Western Region Asia Cup T20 qualifying tournament in Oman

Ahmed Raza, the UAE captain, says the influx of young talent is pushing the UAE national team onto greater heights.

Four teenagers have been named in the 14-man squad for the Western Region Asia Cup T20 qualifying tournament in Oman, which starts in Al Amerat on Sunday.

Two of those, Alishan Sharafu and Ansh Tandon, have been called up to the senior side for the first time.

Karthik Meiyappan and Vriitya Aravind have retained their places in the side after impressing in the 50-over format.

“Leading up to the series, these guys were the ones who were pushing everyone in training,” Raza, 31, said.

“It is good to have young legs in the side, and it is good to give them responsibility. We have done that in the last series and they have delivered.

“They have all performed at U19 level, so they richly deserve this chance.”

Sharafu will become the third youngest debutant the UAE have fielded in international cricket if he makes the starting line up in Oman.

He turned 17 while on tour with UAE at the Under 19 World Cup in South Africa last month.

The Dubai schoolboy brings with him fine form, having finished that competition with back-to-back half-centuries.

It was at that World Cup when he found out he had been selected for the senior side, after being added to the WhatsApp group by Dougie Brown, the head coach who has since been replaced.

“I was added to the men’s group, and there was a message sent by Dougie to say that I was picked,” Sharafu said.

“I had been in the reserves for the last series as well. I had to push myself, obviously, and it was a nice feeling to get the call.

“It was an exciting feeling and I think this is going to be a good learning experience for me. I have a lot to learn.

“I just want to go out there and express myself, and give it my best shot. [T20] suits my game because I’m an aggressive batsman by nature.”

Tandon, 18, caught the eye in age-group cricket when he scored a century against Sri Lanka in the U19 Asia Cup last year.

“Ansh comes into the squad with heaps of runs behind him at U19 level,” Raza said. “If someone is scoring a hundred at that age, it means they know how to build an innings, to take the innings deep, and to get big runs. That is a plus.

“He is also a very fit bloke, and drives the training as well. You need that from young players.”

The tournament in Oman is the first phase of qualifying for the Asia Cup T20 later this year.

That competition will involve India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, plus one extra side to come through qualifying. It is possible the main event will take place in UAE.

The two finalists in the tournament in Oman will advance to a four-team final qualifier in Malaysia this summer. The winners of that will make it to the Asia Cup.

The tournament is the first of Robin Singh’s tenure as director of cricket, after he replaced Brown earlier this month.

Raza says the fact the first competition under the new coach is in the 20-over format has worked well, given Singh’s expertise in that mode of the game.

The former India has been employed all over the world as a T20 franchise coach, and is dovetailing his role in UAE with that of fielding coach for Mumbai Indians, the Indian Premier League champions.

“It works well with his first series being a T20, knowing his credentials,” Raza said. “He has been part of the Mumbai Indians for 11 years or so, so he knows how to break down T20 into small sections, and how to keep an intensity throughout the game.

“It has been really good. We are all very much looking forward to this series.”

Updated: February 22, 2020 02:16 PM

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