UAE keen to follow in Nigeria's footsteps and clinch place at Under 19 World Cup
Viral video of Nigeria's players celebrating has inspired the UAE captain Aryan Lakra ahead of the Asia Qualifiers in Malaysia
The teenaged cricketers aspiring to represent the UAE at the Under 19 World Cup in South Africa next year do not need many additional incentives.
If they did, though, a brief glimpse at the ICC’s Twitter feed of a video of the team that most recently achieved qualification should do the trick.
Last month, Nigeria became the 12th team – and the first from a non-Test playing nation - to qualify for the event.
A minute-long social media video of their players celebrating the winning moment with a euphoric pitch invasion has been viewed over 176,000 times.
Aryan Lakra, who will captain the UAE when they bid to become the 13th side to qualify, was one of those to view it.
“I remember seeing the video and it made me realise what a big thing playing in a World Cup is,” said Lakra, who will lead the UAE in a six-team Asia Qualifier in Malaysia, starting on Friday.
“I felt really pumped up after watching it. It is important we just go there, express ourselves, and hopefully we can do the same.
“To play in a World Cup would be a dream come true for any cricketer around the world."
Lakra was one of a number of members of the 14-man squad, who fly to Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, that played for a UAE development XI against the United States senior team earlier this month.
The youngsters performed capably in that company, and are confident they can make a success of it when they return to age-group level in Malaysia.
Their opposition are not short of experience of senior-grade cricket, either. Chief among their rivals for the one qualifying spot to play in South Africa next February will be Nepal.
Their captain, Rohit Paudel, was a match-winner in the senior Nepal side that beat the UAE in limited-overs series earlier this year.
“The players are passionate and determined towards the game and there is huge fan following of cricket in Nepal,” Paudel said.
“It would be one of the best moments of my life, as taking our team to the World Cup would make our country proud.”
Lakra, a left-handed all-rounder who scored a century in practice against their forebears in the UAE U19 side this week, says Nepal are not the only side to be concerned by.
“On any day, another team can score or get your wicket, so it is not like Nepal are the only threat for us,” Lakra said.
“It is about getting our basics right, and to keep progressing through the tournament.
“It is a short tournament, we will get matches quickly, so I think it is important we focus on one match at a time.”
Updated: April 10, 2019 09:36 AM