UAE cricket starts 'most crucial' season in its history, according to coach Dougie Brown
Face Zimbabwe A in five 50-over matches before beginning arduous task of trying to qualify for 2019 World Cup
UAE cricket will start the “most crucial” season in its history, according to coach Dougie Brown, when they play five 50-over matches against Zimbabwe A, starting this week.
The series represents the start of a busy winter for the national team, which they hope will culminate next March in qualification for the 2019 World Cup.
The UAE played against Zimbabwe in New Zealand in 2015, in their first appearance at a World Cup in 20 years.
Both sides have much to do to ensure a return to 50-over cricket’s premier event in two years’ time.
Despite being a Test nation, Zimbabwe are not guaranteed a place at the competition due to their lowly one-day international ranking.
At least they will have home advantage in their quest to make it to England in two years’ time.
The 10-team World Cup Qualifier, involving the likes of West Indies, Afghanistan and Ireland, is scheduled for Zimbabwe in March.
The UAE hope to be there, too, but first face a six-team repechage event in Namibia in February.
Finishing in the top two in that will earn them a trip to Zimbabwe the following month.
The UAE are using this 50-over series, starting at the ICC Academy on Thursday, to give chances to several new players.
The national team have enjoyed fine results over the past nine months, but Brown is hoping more competition for places could help raise standards yet further.
A 20-man squad has been named for the series, and Brown said that every player will get some game time, meaning four players are set to make their UAE debuts.
“These games are important, but the most crucial cricket the UAE will have played – ever, probably – is the World Cup pre-qualifiers, before going to Zimbabwe,” Brown said.
“We need to know what our best squad is before then. The guys we have brought into the squad are very good players in their own right.
“Their starting point is behind where [the contracted players] are, because they are not full-time athletes.
“These guys work, so they can’t dedicate the time and effort these guys do to the sport. We know they are very talented.”
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“This is the next tier after the national side, for players who are on the fringe of the team, so we are also looking to the World Cup Qualifier next year,” Douglas Hondo, the Zimbabwe A coach, said.
“This is for guys to stake a claim and put their name forward for that World Cup Qualifier. It is a very important tour for us, too.
“Playing at home [in March], on the big stage, should be an advantage for us. It will be good for the development of the game back at home.”
Rohan Mustafa, the UAE captain, believes a tough examination is awaiting his side.
“We have been playing good cricket and we have home advantage,” Mustafa said. “Playing against the A team from a Test country, we will get confidence from that.”
Dougie Brown has eye on successful UAE youngsters
Dougie Brown says several of the UAE Under 19 players who performed so well in winning the Western Region U19 tournament are on the radar of the senior team selectors.
The U19 team qualified to play against the likes of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India in the Asia Youth Cup this week, after winning the competition in Kuala Lumpur.
“We as a team need to recognise performance, rather than age,” Brown, the UAE coach, said.
“Age is a number; if you are good enough, you are young enough or old enough, whichever end of the spectrum you sit.
“We are, at some stage, going to have to get new, younger players into the system. The ages of our current squad can’t keep going up.
“We know the performances of the U19s has been exceptional. There are a number of these players we very much have an eye on, as and when they get back from Malaysia.”
Updated: November 8, 2017 04:57 PM