UAE coach disappointed with tour of Netherlands but has seen fitness levels rise and says squad are ready to face challenge, writes Osman Samiuddin.
UAE cricket coach Aaqib Javed happy that results will follow
ABU DHABI // The UAE cricket team's recent tour to the Netherlands was a "difficult" one for the side, according to Aaqib Javed, the head coach.
The UAE played a four-day game and two 50-over matches, as part of the International Cricket Council's (ICC) associate programme, and returned without a win.
It was the first real assignment for the former Pakistan fast bowler Aaqib, who took over from Kabir Khan in March, and who is the highest-profile coach the country has had.
He was officially appointed as the UAE took on Scotland in March and oversaw those games but this tour was an opportunity to spend a concentrated period of time working with the side.
The relatively short duration of the tour and the inclement weather – two days of the drawn four-day game were washed out entirely – did not help. "The Netherlands has conditions that are more difficult than England," Aaqib told The National. "In England they are well prepared whereas in Netherlands they play on club grounds and it's not easy to go there from here and adjust straight away.
"The difficult thing of these tours is that they are only for 12 days. You go there, you have two days practice, then a four-day game. And unfortunately we did not get the chance to practise too much because of the rain. We only batted 41 overs in the four-day game and that was it."
That lack of acclimatisation proved fatal in the two 50-over games – part of the World Cricket League Championship (WCL) – that followed.
In the first, the UAE collapsed from 25 for no loss to 46 for seven, before they were eventually bundled out for just 96.
In the second game, the tourists frittered away an impressive, controlled start, losing their way in the final 10 overs and ending with 221, which Aaqib felt should have been closer to 260.
The Netherlands snuck home with only eight balls and three wickets to spare. "It was a difficult tour for the boys because they are used to playing in Sharjah or the slower wickets in the UAE and it is not easy for them to adjust so quickly and in such short time.
Though the results were disappointing, Aaqib believes good progress has been made since March and that the players are increasingly better prepared for future challenges.
His expansive coaching experience as an assistant and bowling coach with the Pakistan senior side, as well as an extended stint with the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Lahore has borne fruit with players unused to such standards.
Saqib Ali, the UAE all-rounder, said before the tour that they had been training "as we have never done" ahead of a tour.
"I was there for the Scotland matches earlier, but this was the first tour with all the training staff and we had three months of scattered training sessions in the run-up," Aaqib said.
"We were well prepared because the guys really worked hard. The average weight loss was five to 12kg in the squad so I was really satisfied with that because they've never probably had to work that hard on fitness alone and they did not have an idea of the many different types of training we did.
"The results are a different thing, but if I look at the boys now, they are much fitter and they've worked really hard. Any team coming here, they are ready to face."
The training was divided into two seven-week stints, first at Dubai Sports City at the ICC's Global Cricket Academy and then in Sharjah. The first sessions, held between 7-9pm during the week, concentrated on specific sessions with bat, ball and physical training. In Sharjah Aaqib implemented methods favoured by the late Bob Woolmer, the former coach of South Africa and Pakistan whom Aaqib worked with.
"We did three sessions a week where we replicated match conditions fully in the middle," Aaqib said. "We gave targets to the batting pair and similar targets to bowlers out in the middle."
The UAE currently sit in fourth place in both the ICC Intercontinental Cup (four-day games) and the WCL.
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