x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Emirati trio push for more training to play cricket for UAE

Al Baloushi cousins impress in the ACC Under 16 Challenge Cup in Thailand and will merit contracts, says Dilawar Mani.

Khaled Al Baloushi, right, celebrates after taking a catch against Afghanistan in the Under 16 ACC U16 Challenge Cup in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Khaled's fielding has impressed the team management.
Khaled Al Baloushi, right, celebrates after taking a catch against Afghanistan in the Under 16 ACC U16 Challenge Cup in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Khaled's fielding has impressed the team management.

Three Emiratis selected to play the UAE Under 16 team said they are happy for the opportunity but pleaded for more chances from national cricket officials.

The Al Baloushi cousins – Abdulla, Khaled and Hamad – made significant contributions at the recent Asian Cricket Council Challenge Cup in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Their inclusion was necessary for the team to be eligible for the tournament, but Abdulla proved he was as good as anyone in the team with solid performances.

The boys feel they can do more if given the chance.

"If we are given the opportunity to train we can perform better," said Abdulla, 16, the oldest of the three. "We all want to play serious cricket when we return home but we never get the support from those who run the sport.

"It is not only the three of us, but we can rally around more Emirati players for the future, only if they are given the encouragement and backing."

Sultan Murad Al Baloushi, 32, a cousin who accompanied the boys on the tour, said more must be done to encourage Emiratis to take up the sport.

"The authorities must do something to address this issue to encourage the Emirati players to play serious cricket," he said. "They are using the Emirati players as chewing gum. They are asked to join the age-group squad when they need them and ignored when they are not required.

"We have made some representations to the Emirates Cricket Board in the past to address this issue but nothing has been done so far. We have more players who would be interested but it is difficult to attract them when there is no encouragement.

"All we request is to provide us the facilities and we have the players to field our own team."

Dilawar Mani, the chief executive of the Emirates Cricket Board, said there is "absolutely no doubt" that Emirati players need to be part of the UAE squad.

"They have never been denied the use of facilities and training programmes," Mani said. "We have always encouraged them to participate and be an integral part of the future of the UAE.

"These boys [in the U16 ACC Challenge Cup] have performed absolutely well and need to be recognised for their skills. This needs to be further developed so these boys can be members of the senior team as well."

He said the ECB will try to sign the three cousins, and others, to "acceptable contracts".

"Where we can find the talent we would like to sign them up so that we assure ourselves of the future participation in both, the U16 and the future of the UAE team," Mani said.

The Emirati players were of considerable value to the squad during the tournament. "We don't feel we are playing with eight players because their contributions on the field are as good as anyone, or even better, in the team," Mohammed Hyder, the coach of the team, said. "They have been outstanding on the field. They are strong lads and could throw the ball from the boundary straight at the wicketkeeper. All they need is more playing opportunities and I wish they get that."

Abdulla hit a breezy 19 to set up UAE's nine-wicket win over the Maldives and was the second-highest scorer against Afghanistan in a low-scoring match. He hit a run-a-ball 15 with three fours in the UAE total of 110, in a game they lost by two wickets.

Khaled took a couple of catches including an outstanding effort running back at deep square leg against the Afghans. Hamad took three wickets against China.

Abdulla is the more experienced of the trio, having played in the same event in Nepal in 2009. But he has not played competitive cricket since.

apassela@thenational.ae