Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 6 August 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Captain Ahmed Raza remains upbeat despite UAE being denied a home Asia Cup after tournament is cancelled due to coronavirus

Competition delayed for at least a year, with Sri Lanka now penciled in to host the rescheduled event in 2021

The UAE’s players have been denied the chance of playing in a home Asia Cup this year after it was confirmed the tournament has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ahmed Raza, the UAE captain, remains upbeat despite his side been denied a shot at playing in the Asia Cup this year.

The competition, which was due to be played this coming September, has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It will be delayed for at least a year, with Sri Lanka now pencilled in to host the rescheduled event next year.

UAE had been well placed to make it to the competition, where they would have been pitted into competition with the superstars of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

They were the top-ranked side in a four team even scheduled to be played in Malaysia next month. The winners would have advanced to the main event.

Raza pointed out that his side still had much to do to qualify – they fell short the last time the event was played, in 2018 – and suggested the right decision had been made to suspend the competition.

“There had been rumours around which we had heard, but we were training as if it was going ahead as planned,” Raza said.

“I was in the gym when I found out, so I smashed a few more weights to get the frustration out.

“But of course, there was not a guaranteed spot for us, anyway. We still had to play at the qualifier to make it to the main event.

“Looking at it positively, we still have more time to prepare to try and do that, as it is postponed, not cancelled.

“If it had been happening now, it would have had to happen behind closed doors.

"Playing matches against India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka, you don’t want to be behind closed doors.

“Normally, we play with no crowds, so if you get the opportunity to play in Asia Cup you want packed houses.

“If it happens next year, hopefully we will be well placed to qualify and play in front of big crowds.”

It was scheduled to be played this September, as a precursor to the T20 World Cup.

That competition, set for Australia in October and November, also seems certain to be postponed for a year, with confirmation likely to come via an ICC conference this month.

UAE had initially appeared to be the most likely host of the Asia Cup.

The Pakistan Cricket Board had hosting rights for the event, but with India unwilling to tour there, would likely have switched the competition to the Emirates – as was the case in 2018.

Pakistan have swapped staging rights with Sri Lanka, though, under the belief the island nation would have been better equipped to go ahead given the prevailing health situation.

As such, UAE could feasibly stage the competition a year later.

“The executive board of the [Asian Cricket Council] has met on multiple occasions to evaluate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Asia Cup,” the ACC said in a statement.

“From the onset the board was keen on organising the tournament as per the original schedule.

“However, travel restrictions, country-specific quarantine requirements, fundamental health risks and social distancing mandates have posed as substantial challenges to the holding of the Asia Cup.

“Above all, the risks related to health and safety of participating players, support staff, commercial partners, fans and the cricketing community were deemed to be significant.”

Raza said the idea of playing against the continent’s elite again, as they did in Bangladesh in 2016, is the side’s main motivation, rather than the prospect of doing so on home soil.

“Playing in front of your family and friends would have been a different ball game altogether – assuming that we would have qualified,” Raza said.

“But if you are playing India or Pakistan, it doesn’t matter which part of the world you are from, you are going to get big crowds.”

Updated: July 9, 2020 07:06 PM

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