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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Drakes is gone, not forgotten

Vasbert Drakes ends his stint as coach of the UAE national team and returns home to Barbados.

DUBAI // Vasbert Drakes has ended his stint as coach of the UAE national team and returned home to Barbados. The former West Indies Test player was brought to the Emirates on a three-month term, starting in May, to oversee the national team's Asia Cup and ACC Trophy campaigns.

He has now departed, as planned, to resume his permanent position with the Barbados team in the Caribbean first-class competition. With no matches scheduled for the national team in the next few months, the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) are in no rush to appoint a successor. However, the ECB have not ruled out the possibility of Drakes returning to assist with preparations for next year's World Cup qualifying competition.

The ICC World Cup Qualifier 2009 takes place in the UAE next April, when the host nation will be bidding to make it to one-day cricket's showpiece event for the first time since 1996. The ECB administrator Mazhar Khan said: "The board will decide. We have a gap now. We will look into it. "We will definitely be looking for a coach, it all depends on what the positives will be to having him [Drakes] back, or whether he is available or not."

While Drakes was in charge, the UAE showed promise - despite suffering two defeats - against Bangladesh and the eventual champions Sri Lanka at the Asia Cup in Pakistan in June. They then sealed their place at the 2010 edition of the continent's No 1 50-over competition by reaching the final of the ACC Trophy in Malaysia earlier this month. However, that success was tempered by the fact they then sacrificed their Trophy title, which they had held for eight years, after losing to Hong Kong in a rain-affected final on Aug 3. Even though the results were mixed under his guidance, Drakes proved hugely popular with the players.

One UAE player deemed him "the best coach since Chandika Hathurusinghe", who guided the national team to ACC Trophy success in 2006 and is now in charge of his native Sri Lanka's A side. The same player also regarded Drakes, who succeeded the former Pakistan bowler Kabir Khan, as the "only" coach capable of marrying together a UAE side made up of disparate nationalities successfully. Drakes himself admitted he found the environment for cricket in the UAE, where the players are amateur and primarily committed to their employers rather than the game, a challenge.

It was therefore something of a surprise when the 39-year-old coach suggested he might forsake his role with Barbados - which is seen as one of the plum jobs in West Indies cricket - to remain in the Emirates full-time. Khan added: "He was positive.He was a great help and did well with the boys. If [the ACC Trophy final] had been a normal game, rather than Duckworth-Lewis, it would have been a different story. We are back in the Asia Cup in 2010, which is important for us, and let's hope the next Asia Cup will come to the UAE."

@Email:pradley@thenational.ae