Keeping ODI status rides on Emirates reaching World Cup Qualifier in March, while not doing so could have major repercussions on game in country, Paul Radley writes from Namibia
UAE will be 'scrapping for our lives' in bid to beat Namibia and keep alive 2019 World Cup dream
UAE spin bowler Ahmed Raza says “our lives are riding” on Wednesday’s final World Cricket League Division 2 pool match against Namibia in Windhoek.
The national team must beat the host nation to finish in the top two in the competition. The two finalists in Namibia will advance to the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe in March, where they would play for a place at cricket’s showpiece event in England next year.
Maybe more significantly, one-day international status rides on that event next month. The UAE currently have that rank, which they achieved on their way to qualifying for the last World Cup.
If they do not retain it, the ramifications for the game in the UAE will be significant. Most notably, funding from the ICC, which is the main source of income for the game in the emirates, would be substantially reduced.
Cricket in the UAE has been transformed thanks to the additional finances that were unlocked when they reached the final of the last World Cup Qualifier, in New Zealand four years ago.
Many areas of the domestic game, from junior to elite level, have been upgraded. The Emirates Cricket Board also introduced professional contracts for some players for the first time 18 months ago.
It is unclear whether or not it would be feasible to continue with the programme if funding by the game’s governing body was cut, so potentially a number of jobs are on the line.
“The team knows that our lives are kind of riding on this last game now,” said Raza, who is in the minority in the national team squad in that he has a day job away from cricket.
World Cricket League Div 2: Fixtures and team-by-team guide
The national team start the final round of pool matches in fourth place in the six-team division.
However, because they have the best run-rate in the competition, victory over Namibia will guarantee them a place in the top two, assuming the fixture between Canada and Nepal is neither abandoned or tied.
“They are a good team,” Raza said of Namibia. “We know we have to play our A-game to beat them in their own home ground.”
Mohammed Naveed, the UAE fast bowler who was the match-winner in the win against Oman last time out, is confident.
“Believe me, I have no tension,” Naveed said. “I’m not confused. My thinking is very high, not low. I give 100 per cent effort, not 70 per cent, 80 per cent – 100 per cent.
“If I do that, my team is successful. I know there is money [ICC funding dependent on the UAE’s progress], I understand. Every boy understands.”
Coach Dougie Brown said: “We know what we are playing for. We are scrapping for our lives here.”