x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Saqib Ali returns to UAE cricket set-up after a year out injured

After successful run in Canada, Ahmed Raza will lead UAE senior squad in eight-team tournament, writes Paul Radley.

Saqib Ali underwent surgery on his back but is fit now. Satish Kumar / The National
Saqib Ali underwent surgery on his back but is fit now. Satish Kumar / The National

The national cricket team have been able to recall a distinguished player from their recent past as they look to shape their future at the Emerging Teams Cup in Singapore this week.

Saqib Ali, the former UAE captain, has returned to the side for the first time since surgery on his back, and almost a year after he last represented the national team in serious cricket.

Last October, the batsman, 35, scored a century against Nepal in the final of the ACC Trophy, a qualifier for the new event in Singapore. He was then endured months out of the game after undergoing an operation in Pakistan to fix a problem with a bulging disc.

"I have been in close contact with Saqib's doctors in Pakistan and agreed on a rehabilitation programme with them," said Chitrala Sudhaker, the UAE physiotherapist. "After months of strengthening exercises solely for his back, he was able to return to cricket-specific training and he has done well and score runs since returning to domestic cricket."

As the name suggests, this Emerging Teams competition is seen as a developmental exercise by the Asian Cricket Council.

The four Test nations, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh, are represented by players under 23 years old.

While the four non-Test teams, UAE, Nepal, Afghanistan and hosts Singapore, are entitled to pick who they like, the national team have opted to try untested youth in addition to the return of Saqib.

Dan D'Souza, a pupil at the British School Al KhubRairat in Abu Dhabi, and Amjad Khan have been selected for the senior team for the first time.

It also represents another chance for Ahmed

to see how the captaincy armband fits in the absence of his long-term mentor Khurram Khan. Raza's team will be high in confidence having recently returned from a successful tour of Canada, during which they maintained their hopes of qualification for the World Cup with two 50-over victories.

With biggest tests set to follow against the Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, the UAE will be optimistic of opening their account with a win on Monday against Singapore.

"We are really excited and are looking forward to the match," Raza said. "We have been waiting for this tournament since we won the ACC Trophy last year.

"This is also a great opportunity for UAE to prove we can challenge the top Asian teams and playing well here can help UAE."

pradley@thenational.ae

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