x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Emiratis call for their inclusion

Hopes of UAE nationals representing their country are fast receding as they wait for permission from a skeptical cricket board to play in Asian Games.

Mohammed Tauqir is believed to be one of the best homegrown cricketers in the UAE.
Mohammed Tauqir is believed to be one of the best homegrown cricketers in the UAE.

Cricket teams from Nepal and Bhutan will be taking part at the Asian Games in China later this year, but hopes of UAE nationals representing their country are fast receding as they wait for permission from their cricket board. Cricket in the country has generally been the domain of expatriates from the subcontinent, but the eligibility criteria for participation in the Asian Games stipulates all players should be nationals.

Keeping those conditions in mind, the UAE Nationals Cricket Club, a team of just Emiratis, wrote to the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) on February 19, seeking permission to represent the country at the Asian Games, starting in Guangzhou from November 12. The last date for registering teams is March 31 but the club have not yet heard back from the ECB. "Time is running out and we are still waiting for a reply," said Abdulrazzak Kazim, the manager-come-coach of the UAE Nationals Cricket Club, who spent long years in the service of the game here - as part of the ECB and away from it.

"Why can't we participate? Why can't we represent our country? We may not be able to beat India or Pakistan, but that should not stop you from playing the game. Anyway, unless we play them we cannot know where we stand. We cannot know our strengths or gain experience. "Still, I believe we have enough talent to stand up to these teams. We will not lose tamely or be the underdogs." Kazim, an ex-selector and manager of the UAE team that played in the 1996 World Cup, spoke to the media at a conference organised yesterday to express angst at the treatment of Emirati cricketers in the country.

Alawi Shukri al Braik, the captain of the UAE Nationals Cricket Club, was also present and voiced his displeasure at the way the ECB have been ignoring their request. "We sent an email to the cricket board on the February 19 and we haven't received a reply yet," he said. "We have sent an email to the Asian Cricket Council [ACC] as well and they have written back to the ECB. We received the reply from the ACC on March 11.

"China, Hong Kong, Bhutan, Nepal- all these countries have already registered. When all these countries can participate, why cannot the UAE? We are just making a simple request, but there has been no reply. This is very strange. "Usually, the ECB are very prompt with their replies, but now it seems they are ignoring us." Dilawar Mani, the chief executive of the ECB, said he had spoken to Kazim after receiving their letter and advised him to send the team for professional training, which he refused. "It is my dream too to have a UAE cricket team only of nationals," said Mani.

"That is our goal, but there is a process to be followed. We cannot send a club team to an internatio-nal event. We have to be a little more responsible. "I asked Kazim to send his boys to our camps, so that we can train them, develop their skills and get them ready for international cric-ket. But he refused, saying he is a better coach than everyone else. "We cannot be irresponsible and send these boys like lambs to the slaughter. There is a risk of serious injury at that level. Can they play an Ishant Sharma, a Lasith Malinga or Zaheer Khan.

"I know these Emirati boys are very talented, but unfortunately they are being misguided. I have spoken to them personally to come and attend our camps, but they refuse. How can we select them in the team then? "We have Emirati players like Mohammed Tauqir. He is a super player and one of the best we have. His dedication and quality should be an example for the others." The Emirati cricketers have approached Abdul Mohsen al Dossari, the assistant general secretary of the General Authority for Youth and Sports, with their problem and al Braik is hoping for a positive resolution. "I cannot go into the details, but we are hoping for a positive resolution," he said. @Email:arizvi@thenational.ae