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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Dougie Brown's grand designs on making UAE top-ranked team outside Test arena

Scotsman speaks ahead of his first official tour in charge of national team that face Netherlands in three limited-overs matches this month

Dougie Brown took interim charge of the UAE cricket team between February and May, and now has the position full-time.
Dougie Brown took interim charge of the UAE cricket team between February and May, and now has the position full-time.

Dougie Brown has big plans for UAE cricket. So much so, he struggles to downplay his ambitions, despite trying his best.

“It is about being clear about what we are trying to achieve as a country,” Brown cautions, in an interview before his first series in permanent charge, against the Netherlands this week.

“I know what that is. Stating now would probably be the wrong thing to do.”

So he does not want to make any grand statements. And then his voracious enthusiasm for the task at hand leads him to do just that.

He wants the national team to be the world’s No 1 side beyond the Test sphere. He wants to see UAE players featuring in the leading Twenty20 leagues around the globe. And he wants to be a challenge for the top nations who come to tour the Emirates.

That is all. No biggie.

“What is realistic? There is no point us setting out to be looking to play Test cricket in the next three years,” Brown says. “That is not just going to happen.

“Could we be the No 1 Associate team in cricket in the next three years? Yes, we could. Can we be in a position to have our players going off to play in major tournaments around the world? We have seen Chirag Suri do it.

“He didn’t play any cricket, but there are other ones who could go away and play, whether it be Big Bash, CPL [Caribbean Premier League], BPL [Bangladesh Premier League], or IPL [Indian Premier League]. We have players who are good enough to do that.”

To say the former England international is excited about the long-term project with UAE cricket undersells the point.

He sold his home in the UK ahead of moving to Dubai this summer. Even before that, when he was only filling the breach temporarily while the Emirates Cricket Board prevaricated over making a full-time appointment, his commitment to the role was impressive.

He missed his youngest daughter’s second birthday (although he was not wholly downcast by the fact that meant skipping a trip to a theme park), while overseeing preparations for the series against Papua New Guinea.

Now he is hungry to start cementing the progress he put in place with the national team during that initial – and highly successful – three-month stint. “It was short-term aim, now it is a long-term expectation,” the Scotsman says.

Suri’s unexpected elevation to the ranks of cricket’s biggest competition, the IPL, is a good starting point.

Brown wants the players to believe they can do the same, and earn for themselves the type of experiences that have previously been beyond players from this country.

Individual ambition, Brown says, is only achievable by way of collective success.

“We need to be a good side, primarily,” he says. “Nobody is going to look at players within a team if you are not competing as a team.

“We know there is a bigger picture. We want to aspire to be the No 1-ranked Associate team in the world over the next period of time.

“By doing that, because of the geography of where we are, we will get the opportunity, which other Associates won’t do, and that is to compete against the Full Member teams on a more regular basis.

“If we do, we need to make sure we are putting in solid performances against them. I know we can, it is just a case of working to that point.”

The side’s first official engagement under their new coach is three 50-over matches against a Netherlands side ranked first in the World Cricket League. The UAE are last-placed in the eight-team competition.

These matches do not count towards the WCL, and the home side are without three of their most noted first-class players, Roelof van der Merwe, Timm van der Gugten and Michael Rippon.

For Brown, the series represents the start of a new chapter for the game in the UAE.

“We have to start somewhere,” Brown said. “We have started. We have been on a good little journey over the past few months. The players have bought in to the management’s vision of what we want from the team.

“It is really important we revisit that vision, and say, ‘What can we achieve? You as a player will benefit as an individual if we do well as a team.’

“It is a slightly different way of looking at it to the intrinsic, slightly selfish way of looking at it as a player. But you will get recognition if we manage to buy ourselves recognition as a team.”