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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 April 2019

UAE prepare for Zimbabwe tour with a little help from Dubai resident Graeme Cremer

National team turn to former Zimbabwe captain for advice ahead of four-match ODI series starting in Harare on Wednesday

The UAE national cricket team hired Dubai resident Graeme Cremer a consultant ahead of their Zimbabwe tour. Satish Kumar for The National
The UAE national cricket team hired Dubai resident Graeme Cremer a consultant ahead of their Zimbabwe tour. Satish Kumar for The National

The UAE will have their work cut out this week when they play a bilateral one-day international series against a Test-playing nation for the first time.

The national team face Zimbabwe in four ODIs Harare, starting on Wednesday. Although the assignment is a testing one, the away side have had some insightful insider knowledge to draw on in the lead up to it.

Graeme Cremer was the Zimbabwe captain up until the World Cup Qualifier last year. That competition ended in heartbreak for the host nation when, with a place at this summer’s main event in England in their grasp, they lost out by three runs to the UAE in an exhilarating encounter at the Harare Sports Club.

Cremer was subsequently removed from the captaincy, and has not played for Zimbabwe since.

Not long after that fateful match, the 32-year-old leg-spinner relocated to Dubai with his young family, where his wife works as a pilot for Emirates.

In recent months he has been working as a coaching consultant for the UAE’s representative teams, after an invitation to join the fold from Dougie Brown, the coach, and Will Kitchen, the performance manager.

Ironically, that has meant trying to ready the UAE players to beat his former colleagues in Zimbabwe.

Cremer was even offered the chance to return to Harare, his home city, as part of the backroom staff of the touring side for this week’s series. He declined, though, out of respect for his former teammates.

“After the Qualifier, I was axed from the captaincy, so I suppose there was a bit of bad blood there, but that wasn’t the reason that we left,” Cremer said.

“It was more about my wife fulfilling her career. Yes, it was tough for me to leave, and, who knows, maybe one day I will go back, but we are really enjoying it here. We love Dubai.

“We decided that, for the security of what Dubai offers, we would move the whole family across here.

“It happened overnight that Dougie and Will contacted me. We had a good chat, and it has been nice to be involved with the main side.”

Cremer’s international career is currently paused on 144 matches and 211 wickets across the three formats for Zimbabwe, and he has not ruled out a return at some point in the future.

For now, though, he is content with the decision to relocate to the UAE, and the role he has parenting two young children, dovetailed with coaching cricket.

“It was up to me in the beginning phase,” Cremer said.

“We have two kids. We wanted them to settle, and we didn’t want them to be in a situation where their mum and dad are both always gone, and they are just at home.

“I took it upon myself that my wife can fly, and I will be here and settled the kids and family. I had no immediate plans either to go back, or stay here. We are just seeing how it goes as we go.

“[The UAE team] are a great bunch of guys, and I enjoy working with Dougie and Will. It is really nice to be wanted, coming in to a consultancy role like this.

“I was really happy to come and help these guys, because I knew they were really talented. They just haven’t been exposed to that higher level yet.”

UAE leg-spinner Imran Haider is benefiting from having worked with Graeme Cremer. Chris Whiteoak / The National
UAE leg-spinner Imran Haider is benefiting from having worked with Graeme Cremer. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Cremer’s coaching has been a boon in particular for Imran Haider, the national team leg-spinner, given his specialist knowledge in the craft.

“It’s been great to have him working with us, as he’s a very experienced player, and it’s especially helpful for the spinners,” Haider said.

“He talks about the variations in bowling in the middle overs, and the depth and right field to set when we are bowling, which has been very helpful.”

The feeling of appreciation has been mutual, with Cremer suggesting Haider, who has taken 30 wickets in the 16 ODIs he has played for the national team so far, is a “real asset for UAE cricket”.

“I haven’t seen an Associate leg-spinner like him,” Cremer said of Haider. “He has all the tricks, and has a good head on his shoulders.

“I don’t see myself as having to coach him. It is mainly strategy. From what I have seen of his action and his run up, it is all really natural to him.

“There is not much that needs changing there, but I think there are tactics and strategy where he could really learn a lot. He is a real asset to UAE cricket.”

Updated: April 7, 2019 12:01 PM

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