The UAE's Under 19 team return from Malaysia not with the Elite Cup but in good spirits, regardless. Amith Passela reports.
Plenty of positives for UAE Under 19 cricket team
They may not have been bringing the Asian Cricket Council Under 19 Elite Cup back from Malaysia with them, but the UAE players returned home in an upbeat frame of mind.
Apart from the two defeats to Afghanistan, in the group stage andin the final on Saturday, the UAE put up an admirable show with victories over Hong Kong, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and Nepal during the tournament.
This was despite not having their full squad as some of their players could not make the trip because of schedule conflicts with school exams.
They were no match for Afghanistan, though. In fact, none of the teams were when playing against a side the UAE coach Aaqib Javed described as "full-time cricketers".
But the UAE proved they were worthy of being in the ICC Under 19 World Cup, which they host next year, and have given Aaqib something to work with.
Dan D'Souza, the Player of the Tournament, said: "It was a really good performance when we look back at what we were six months ago.
"To play six games in eight days under the humid weather in Kuala Lumpur was really taxing, but this experience provided all of us to realise how much we need to prepare, both physically and mentally.
"And apart from the two matches against Afghanistan, I think we did pretty well, particularly against Nepal, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia."
D'Souza, who is a grade 13 pupil at the British School Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi, excelled both with bat and ball in the tournament, with scores of 23 not out and one for 27 against Afghanistan, 79 against Hong Kong, 67 off Thailand's attack, 69 and four for 29 when they faced Saudi Arabia, 58 and four for 46 against Nepal were some of the highlights.
Shorye Chopra, who struck 114 off 115 balls against Nepal, was the other to play a standout role on the tour.
"Personally, I had a good tournament and Shorye's knock was quite outstanding," D'Souza said. "He took the pressure off me.
"However, it was the teamwork and the contributions of each and every player that got us into the final."
With the dust now settled from the first tournament for the age-group team, Aaqib is set to draw up a full training schedule once the school examinations are concluded.
D'Souza believes the tournament has been ideal preparation for next year's World Cup, where they will face the 10 full-member nations and winners of the five affiliated members across the five continents in the 16-team event.
He added: "It is the kind of start we needed and obviously now we need to continue working ahead to raise our game to the next level by taking all the positives forward from this experience.
"I also understand that my performance doesn't guarantee me a place in the World Cup squad, which means more hard work ahead."
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE