x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE coach unfazed by challenge of limited world Twenty20 slots

The already uphill task of qualifying for the event in Sri Lanka became much steeper with the ICC deciding to limit the teams to 12 instead of 16.

Kabir Khan, coach of the UAE cricket team, was confused by the ICC's logic but reminds that the 'door is not completely closed'.
Kabir Khan, coach of the UAE cricket team, was confused by the ICC's logic but reminds that the 'door is not completely closed'.

The coach of the national team claims guiding the UAE to the finals of the World Twenty20 next year would represent a "much sweeter" achievement than when he navigated the similarly unheralded Afghanistan team to the finals of last year's showpiece.

The already uphill task of qualifying for the event in Sri Lanka became much steeper for the UAE yesterday when the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced it would limit the World T20 championship to 12 teams.

It had been widely anticipated that the 2012 tournament would host 16 nations but the qualification process will follow the same pattern as two years ago, when Afghanistan and Ireland won the two qualification spots.

Despite complaints by second-tier countries that the decision would stunt the sport's global growth, the ICC, which is based in Dubai, resisted pressure from minor nations to expand the tournament after having overturned a decision to reduce the number of countries contesting the next 50-over World Cup.

"We will challenge that decision, we won't sit back," Cassim Suliman, the chief executive of the Africa Cricket Association, was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo.

"It's about giving opportunity to everybody and globalising the game. We still have time to work on this and we will."

Haroon Lorgat, the chief executive of the ICC, said in a statement the organisation acknowledged the "disappointment" of the minor nations.

"The decision to have 14 teams in the ICC Cricket World Cup and 12 teams in the ICC World Twenty20 is a return to the current format for ICC events," he said.

Kabir Khan, the coach of the UAE, was confused by the logic of the ICC, saying "they seem to be doing one thing one minute and then change their mind", but was sanguine about the news.

"Had the process been open to top six in qualifying then it would have obviously been easier, but now it will be challenging," Khan said. "We will just have to play well and work hard to get there. I believe we are good enough and we must take the positives and understand it's the same for everyone.

"The door is not completely closed and let's not forget the last time [in 2010] it was two teams as well."

Kabir will now press ahead with preparations for the Asian qualifying T20 event in December. Three of the 10 teams from that section, two teams from Africa, the Americas and Europe, and one team from East Asia-Pacific will then converge on Dubai early next year for the World T20 global qualifier.

"By December we will have a good side together in the T20," Kabir said. "There are a total of around 600 players playing T20 cricket in Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, so we should have a good pool of players. If we can't get a good team together from that many players then there is something wrong."

Kabir has a pedigree in the shortest format of the game - he masterminded Afghanistan's qualification to the 2010 event in the Caribbean, where they lost both of their matches to India and South Africa.

"Twenty20 can be anyone's game," Kabir, 37, said. "Top teams can get beaten by anyone, as if they make a mistake there is little time to recover. But, if you make a mistake in 50 overs or in Test matches, it is easier to turn it around."

The UAE are one of the strongest non-Test playing nations in Asia and cemented their reputation by winning Division Two of the World Cricket League in April without losing a match.

The success represented a fine maiden tournament for Khan in charge of the UAE after he took over the reins from Colin Wells in October last year.

"So far, so good," Kabir said. "We are not full-time, so a lot of my players have tough part-time jobs and then come to play cricket. But we have made lots of improvement in the last five or six months, and the clean sweep of Division Two was a good boost for us.

kaffleck@thenational.ae