x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Mani's dream of Emirati cricket team

Board vows to encourage nationals after admitting to a slack in effort in the past as the ACC Trophy gets underway.

ABU DHABI // The governing body for cricket in the UAE has vowed to breathe new life into attempts to integrate Emiratis into the game, after dismissing previous efforts to do so as "weak" and "feeble". Dilawar Mani, the chief executive of the Emirates Cricket Board, reiterated his hope the national side will be made up entirely of native Arabs in the future. In their most recent fixture, in the ICC World Cup qualifier in Feburary, there were no Emiratis in the side.

"In an ideal world, in my dream team, there will be 11 Emiratis playing and representing the UAE," Mani writes in today's edition of The National. "It is their flag. They should be the ones who come forward to hoist it." Last night, the deadline passed for entries for the cricket competition at the Asian Games, which will be staged in China in October. While the likes of China, Nepal and Afghanistan have all entered sides in the event, the UAE will miss out. Games regulations stipulate that only passport-holders from the country they are representing are able to participate. With only one player, Salman Farooq, from the UAE side, who begin their ACC Trophy campaign in Kuwait today, eligible under that criteria, the Emirates Cricket Board [ECB] opted not to send a side.

"In terms of spreading the game among Emiratis, I have tried to do it here in Abu Dhabi, and I haven't been too successful," said Mani. "Firstly, the attempts that we have made have been weak and feeble. We should be doing more, going out into the schools with the right literature and the right marketing team. "It needs to be marketed, starting with the principals and the masters in charge of physical education."

Alawi Shukri, the batsman who hoped to lead his compatriots in China, wants the expatriate players to assist with the evolution. "The expats are good players, but unless nationals come to the game, the game will not develop," he said. "It is frustrating to see cricket is going on all over the country, but they can't bring a programme to develop the game among nationals. We have good cricketers here who can coach the boys. There are so many things that can happen." @Email:pradley@thenational.ae