Dougie Brown delighted to be back in UAE cricket with Team Abu Dhabi
Former national team coach is in charge of the T10 franchise, which is competing in the Emirates D10
If cricketers the world over have felt rusty on their return after the Covid-enforced break, they are not the only ones.
Not so long ago, Dougie Brown could hit catches to his players more or less in his sleep.
When he returned to coaching this week, five months since he was let go as coach of the UAE national team, the whole process felt alien.
“I’m not going to lie, I was really rusty,” Brown said, after the first day of his new role in charge of Team Abu Dhabi in the new Emirates D10 at the ICC Academy.
“I was struggling to find my range, hitting catches to the boundary edge. The ball was going over their heads. We are all rusty.”
The whole situation must have felt odd. After all, Brown was returning to work at the place which had been his office for the best part of three years when he was in charge of the UAE team.
Now, though, his team were wearing the yellow of the Team Abu Dhabi T10 franchise, playing in a competition that had been put together at about a week’s notice.
He had not even met all of the players, having not been to the capital in the time since the border controls for Covid testing had been installed.
So knocking a side together to compete in a competition that includes the ECB Blues, which is essentially the UAE team in another guise, is going to be a tough ask.
Brown, though, is delighted to be back out doing the job he loves.
“It’s awesome, it feels absolutely fantastic,” Brown said. “It has been a long time away from it with everything that has gone on, with the Covid situation. But that has been the same for everyone.
“I’m so glad to be back out there doing what I’ve done for as long as I can remember.”
Although Team Abu Dhabi nominally represents the capital, the practicalities of the current travel situation mean they have had to call on a number of Dubai residents, including the coach himself.
They have requested to play four matches on the first two days of the tournament, in order to limit the travel – and thus the number of Covid tests that need to be undertaken by the players who are travelling between emirates.
In addition to promising Abu Dhabi-based players, they also have Dubai-based UAE batsman Rameez Shahzad in their ranks.
Their captain is the former Zimbabwe leg-spinner Graeme Cremer, who also lives in Dubai.
All the players in the competition have been told this is their chance to impress the national team selectors.
Brown, meanwhile, says it is an opportunity for promising players to prove themselves worthy of a place in the full Team Abu Dhabi side to play alongside the stars at the T10 league in the future.
“The fact they are willing to [travel between the emirates] is testament to them,” Brown said. “For me, it is really encouraging that people are willing to do that, and credit to them for it.
“They have an opportunity at the back end of this tournament if they do well."
Coincidentally, Brown’s first day back coaching put himself directly in competition with the players he had coached up until February.
ECB Blues beat Team Abu Dhabi, thanks to a blistering 81 from 27 balls by UAE opener Chirag Suri.
“It was nice to see the guys for the first time in a long time,” Brown said. “Was there more on the game for me? Not at all.
"It was just another opportunity for the Team Abu Dhabi guys to showcase their ability. If they put in a good performance, it promotes their name moving forwards from there.
“The UAE team played really well, but you’d expect that. Chirag played exceptionally well, and we never managed to claw that back.
“We want to use it as an opportunity to develop, and to get a sight on a couple of really good players who, further down the line, will be players of interest for Team Abu Dhabi in its own right.
“If we can identify players we want to develop for that franchise, we have six matches here that are really important for us and the players.”
Updated: July 25, 2020 06:34 PM