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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

UAE's upcoming games against Ireland significant but Dougie Brown has one eye on the more distant future

Fact about facing full member nation for first time in nearly 25 years cause for celebration, but Emirates have World Cup qualification foremost on their minds

Rohan Mustafa and Zahoor Khan will once again be in action against Ireland this week. Pawan Singh / The National
Rohan Mustafa and Zahoor Khan will once again be in action against Ireland this week. Pawan Singh / The National

The fact the UAE are able to welcome a full member nation for a one-day international on home soil for the first time in nearly a quarter of century should be reason enough for celebration.

There are, however, a couple of caveats to the national team’s fixture against Ireland at the ICC Academy in Dubai on Thursday.

First of all, their opponents have yet to play a Test match since the game’s governing body elevated them to the top echelon of the game last year.

The UAE played against the Irish in two matches at the same field 10 months ago. To all intents and purposes, it feels as though little has changed so far.

Also, in the grand scheme of the next two months, the two ODIs against Ireland – as well as two more against Scotland that follow next week – are building blocks towards a greater goal for the home team.

The UAE travel to Namibia for the World Cricket League Division 2 next month, a repechage competition that represents the final throes of qualifying for the World Cup in England next year.

Finish in the top two of the six-team event in Windhoek, and they will advance to the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe in March, where Ireland and Scotland – plus the likes of West Indies and Afghanistan – lie in wait.

“It is not the game against Ireland that is the most important one,” UAE coach Dougie Brown said.

“The most important for us is the first game we play in Namibia on February 8. It is very difficult to keep guys ready for a five-week period. I would like to use this month as a build-up period.

“The standard of cricket we have been taking into this game against Ireland, I am really pleased with. I am sure the guys can hit their straps quickly, but we are looking for progression over the series of matches before we get to Namibia.”

With the aim of peaking in Namibia, Brown gave his players two weeks off around the turn of 2018. They returned to practice on Sunday.

The UAE had a busy end to 2017, with matches against Nepal, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe A in November and December. Nine national team regulars were also subsequently involved in the new T10 League in Sharjah, midway through last month.

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Three players – Ashfaq Ahmed, Mohammed Boota, and Amir Hayat – have been retained in the squad after impressing in their debut series, against the Zimbabweans, meaning the likes of Chirag Suri and Mohammed Qasim have missed out.

“It is disappointing for the guys who have missed out, but that is the nature of professional sport,” Brown said.

“We are in a business of performance, and these guys have done that. They have got what it takes.”