x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Days off a rarity for Aaqib amid UAE commitments

Former Pakistan bowler relishing his heavy workload

Aaqib Javed, the UAE national cricket coach, is a busy man as he prepares his teams for competitions at the senior and Under-19 level. Delores Johnson / The National
Aaqib Javed, the UAE national cricket coach, is a busy man as he prepares his teams for competitions at the senior and Under-19 level. Delores Johnson / The National

SHARJAH // Much is made of the lengths the leading cricketers in this country – all of whom are amateurs – go to in order to represent the nation in their chosen sport.

But what of the few who are paid employees in cricket here?

Aaqib Javed quit the role of national bowling coach back in his native Pakistan last year to take up the job of head coach of UAE cricket.

He wanted to find a good school for his daughter in a country he knew well, while professionally he fancied a change of pace, away from the goldfish bowl of Pakistan cricket.

So has the former Test seam-bowler slowed down? Hardly. Those well-heeled players of the international elite who complain so readily about being overworked should try on his treadmill for size.

Since this season started, the coach has juggled preparing the senior national team for qualification for separate limited-overs World Cups, as well as the Under 19s for their own version.

The U19 remit has been as exhausting as any part of his job. The side played a triangular series with England and Pakistan recently, and on Saturday they start the U19 Asia Cup, which is a dress rehearsal for February’s World Cup on home soil.

In between, Aaqib will travel to New Zealand with the senior team as they have a final tilt at reaching the 2015 World Cup via a repechage qualifier.

To say it is a full-time job underestimates the point. Days off are at a minimum, but Aaqib has been relishing the workload.

“I’m working seven days or more at the moment, but it is a good environment as I am getting fitter and fitter,” Aaqib said.

“I believe if you really work with the boys and your input is significant, it builds a huge amount of confidence in them and you are setting an example.

“When you are running with them, they can’t complain because you are running ahead of them and working as hard as they are. That is really important for me as a coach.”

The U19 side begin their Asia Cup campaign on Saturday against India in Sharjah.

Competing with the likes of India and Pakistan will be hard, according to their coach, who reckons exposure to fast, short-pitched bowling is likely to be their toughest challenge.

That is why Aaqib has spent much of the past few months running in off his long run in the indoor nets at the ICC Academy and pounding the middle of the wicket against his teenaged charges.

He said: “I was bowling at them and one batsman asked, ‘How come you are still bowling that fast at your age? How come you are bowling bouncers and everything?’ I said, ‘It’s because you are batting; it makes me want to bowl bouncers’.”

Aaqib Javed is tasked with overseeing the UAE’s progress in each of these competitions:

World Twenty20 qualifier, November 15-30

Under 19 Tri-series, December 7-22

Under-19 Asia Cup, December 28-January 4

World Cup qualifier, January 12-February 1

Under 19 World Cup, February 14-March 1

World Twenty20, March 16-April 6

pradley@thenational.ae