Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 January 2020

UAE's reversal in fortunes can be attributed to the shift in selection policy

The national team's ability to cast the talent net wider than before means the future looks bright

Jonathan Figy, left, has taken time off university to play for the UAE and averages 55 with the bat. Courtesy Oman Cricket
Jonathan Figy, left, has taken time off university to play for the UAE and averages 55 with the bat. Courtesy Oman Cricket

UAE might have been deprived a shot at moving up to second in the Cricket World Cup League Two on Saturday, when their fixture against Oman was cancelled after the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

Unlike the rained off fixture against Scotland last month, when the points were shared, ICC have signalled this match might yet be replayed.

Namibia also had their match abandoned a day later, as the country observed three days of mourning.

The teams were unable to alter their itineraries to stay on and play the fixtures this week, but ICC say they might yet play the matches at a later stage.

"A decision on whether matches can be rescheduled to another window will be considered in consultation with the participating teams in due course," the ICC said in a statement.

"Teams will not be awarded points, and the League Two table will reflect matches played only."

The fact UAE are even considering a glance towards the top of the table tells of a remarkable turnaround in form and fortunes.

When they started out in this competition last month, it felt like their inexperienced side – where even some of the older players were just starting out in ODI cricket – were in for a tough time.

Now, after three wins in four matches, the atmosphere is totally changed. The future looks bright.

Jonathan Figy, for example, must feel like one-day international cricket is a breeze. At the moment, he averages 55, and has yet to lose a match.

Clearly, it is only a small sample size. He has played just two matches. But the 18-year-old left-hander, who has missed time at his university in the UK in order to play, has looked to the manner born.

He is not the only one. Schoolboy opener Vriitya Aravind has yet to make a score of note, but the freedom with which he hits the ball – he has a strike rate of 88 in his six matches so far – is striking.

Karthik Meiyappan, 19, has been sparkling in the four matches he has played so far, with six wickets at 21.33 and an economy of 4.12.

And Darius D’Silva, who is another missing lectures overseas in order to play, might have not bowled in his first 12 matches for the national team. But he now looks like an allrounder of substance.

The decision to show faith in D’Silva and Figy – two players studying abroad – is a break from the selection policy of the past.

Karthik Meiyappan has made a superb start to his UAE career. Cricket Oman
Karthik Meiyappan has made a superb start to his UAE career. Cricket Oman

Until last year, only players living and playing their cricket in UAE were considered for the national team. Now there is an understanding that players who are UAE-qualified but are living elsewhere can enhance the team.

The change in perspective could help solve a problem that has always plagued the elite game here. Namely, the talent drain of players aged 18 to 23.

Until now, there was basically an acceptance for young players growing up here that once they had decided to go abroad to study, that was basically the end of the road for them with UAE cricket.

Take for instance the UAE team who played at the 2014 Under 19 World Cup. In that tournament Shivank Vijaykumar opened the batting with Chirag Suri – the one player so far to go on to have a career of note in the senior team.

Vijaykumar has played a good standard of grade cricket in Western Australia, but has not been spotted again here – despite signalling his keenness to get involved in the past.

Vriitya Aravind has made a quick transition to the senior national team. Pawan Singh / The National 
Vriitya Aravind has made a quick transition to the senior national team. Pawan Singh / The National 

Now, the goalposts have moved. Another player from the class of 2014, Shorye Chopra, trained with the national team in the lead up to the Oman tour. He is working and studying in Melbourne now, but plays a good standard of cricket there, too.

It is understood the coaches and senior players – who basically comprise the selection team at present – were impressed by what they saw from him in the nets at the ICC Academy.

And it does not mean players based here will be overlooked. Far from it. They, after all, have the clearest and most regular chances to impress those coaches and senior players.

When Zahoor Khan pulled out of the Oman series for compassionate leave, it was Mohammed Ayaz, a player who has proved himself over and over in the domestic game, who replaced him.

But the national team must surely be better off for the decision not to limit itself to those who are available on their doorstep.

Updated: January 12, 2020 03:21 PM

SHARE

SHARE