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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 October 2018

Khurram Khan removed as UAE captain ahead of World Cup, Emirati Tauqir takes over

Emirati offspinner Mohammed Tauqir takes over despite barely playing during UAE's run to the tournament.
Khurram Khan had a better one-day international average than India's Virat Kohli in 2014 but he has been removed as the UAE's captain. Munir uz Zaman / AFP
Khurram Khan had a better one-day international average than India's Virat Kohli in 2014 but he has been removed as the UAE's captain. Munir uz Zaman / AFP
DUBAI // The UAE selectors have provided a surprise ahead of the World Cup by removing Khurram Khan, the long-serving leader and eminent player in the side, as captain.

Mohammed Tauqir, a veteran off-spinner who is one of two Emiratis named in the 15-man squad, is the new leader.

In a statement, the Emirates Cricket Board cited the chance to promote the game to UAE nationals as driving the change.

“The ECB sees Tauqir’s appointment as a great opportunity to promote and showcase Emirati leadership and playing skills on the international sporting stage,” it said.

“At the same time [it] aims to raise the profile of the sport within the Emirati community.

“The decision also intends to highlight that indigenous players are integral to the future sustainability of the sport.”

Tauqir first represented the UAE in the late 1990s. He captained the side in the past, but has spent much of the past decade as understudy to Khurram.

“I am really, really honoured and proud to be representing my country at such a prestigious event,” said Tauqir, who is a relationship manager for National Bank of Abu Dhabi.

“It is a dream come true for me. I know the abilities of all of the boys, have been with them for the past six months, and I know how the core operates. The style will be more or less the same. Khurram is my deputy, he is a very good performer, and I don’t see any issues from that side.”

Tauqir has played little the past two years. He was all but retired until the UAE qualified for the World Cup last January.

:After being encouraged to play again, he proved his commitment to the effort by devoting himself to fitness training, losing nine kilogrammes in three months.

Khurram, an expatriate from Pakistan, was the outstanding player when the national team sealed their place at cricket’s flagship event, as he was for most of the previous decade.

Most recently, he averaged 270 with the bat as he captained the team to their first one-day international series win, against Afghanistan last month. To put his form into context, he scored more List A runs than South Africa’s Hashim Amla in 2014.

Of the seven batsmen who scored more than 1,000 runs in one-day matches last year, Khurram had the best average, better even than India’s Virat Kohli.

Aaqib Javed has overseen a steady rise in partnership with Khurram since becoming UAE coach three years ago.

The former Pakistan bowler, who is not a selector for the squad, says the side can deliver on their goal of two wins at the World Cup.

“[The ECB] took the decision because they wanted Emirati participation, and the fact is we do not belong to this country,” Aaqib said.

“In terms of impact on the team, Tauqir was involved in the side for years, has played a lot of cricket and has captained the side in the past. . . I am sure Khurram and the players will show their support for Tauqir.”

Redha Abbas, the ECB’s chief selector, acknowledged Khurram will still “be of great value to the team” despite the changes to the team.

“The team is a mixture of experienced players and youth,” Abbas said in a statement.

“Vice captain Khurram Khan has been performing wonderfully well, and his experience will be of great value to the team.”

Fahad Al Hashmi, a seam bowler, is the other Emirati who made the cut. He returned to the side for the first time in four years for the series against Afghanistan.

The UAE will play two warm-up matches in Napier ahead of their World Cup campaign, which starts on February 19.

UAE squad for the World Cup: Mohammed Tauqir (captain), Khurram Khan (vice captain), Swapnil Patil, Saqlain Haider, Amjad Javed, Shaiman Anwar, Amjad Ali, Nasir Aziz, Rohan Mustafa, Manjula Guruge, Andrew Berenger, Fahad Al Hashmi, Mohammed Naveed, Kamran Shahzad, Krishna Karate

pradley@thenational.ae