x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE cricket coach Aaquib Javed plays the long game

Part of the national team coach's plan to identify players for the future is to organise an inter-Emirate age-group tournament keeping the 2014 Under 19 World Cup in mind, writes Amith Passela.

Shivank Vijaykumar became the first schoolboy cricketer to score a century in a tournament conducted by the ADCC. Amith Passela / The National
Shivank Vijaykumar became the first schoolboy cricketer to score a century in a tournament conducted by the ADCC. Amith Passela / The National

The country's best young cricketers will get a chance to play themselves into the squad for the ICC Under 19 World Cup in the early part of the new domestic season.

The UAE is hosting the tournament in March in 2014, and Aaqib Javed, the national team coach, is already scouting for talent.

He has drawn up plans that includes an inter-Emirate age-group tournament scheduled for November, which will serve as a trial to select a squad of 24 to go into a training camp from December.

The cricket councils in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah will conduct their own trials from players at schools and academies to select squads for the four-team competition. Javed, a former Pakistan pace bowler, is also looking beyond the World Cup.

He wants to give the country's youngsters a solid cricketing base, and has recommended a structure that will see Under 16 and Under 13 teams play in a tournament to prepare players for representative matches.

"It is indeed a very important year for the age-group teams and those youngsters who may be selected for the squad," said Dilawar Mani, the chief executive officer of the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB).

"Aaqib has already developed a 'pathway' and he is very keen all the councils follow that. He already has a positive and affirmative [response] from Abu Dhabi. It is very important everyone concerned follow this so we have the right grooming and the right quality of cricketers.

"There will be a lot of cricket for these youngsters with the inter-school and inter-academy competitions, and thereafter an inter-Emirate tournament. This is a development from the grass-roots level."

The Sharjah cricket season is set to start in two weeks.

"The inter-school and inter-academy competitions are regular fixtures in Sharjah's calendar of events, and this year it will have more significant as never before as several young cricketers would be trying to get into the World Cup squad," said Mazhar Khan, the ECB administrator.

The Dubai Cricket Council's (DCC) schedule is severely handicapped by the lack of grounds, after the Dubai Municipality took over the DCC grounds, 10 pitches in Al Awir, in 2005 for a building project.

"Despite these setbacks where we have to find the funds to pay for the hiring private grounds, cricket is played at all levels and regularly," said Mohamed Lokhandwala, honorary secretary of the DCC.

"The inter-school and inter-academy competitions are still ongoing but the numbers are reduced considerably due to lack of grounds. There are six academies in Dubai and they now run these tournaments under the aegis of the DCC."

Abu Dhabi was the last of the three emirates to start a junior cricket programme, with the establishment of the MCC-Zayed Cricket Academy in December 2005. The capital's season started with the Ramadan Twenty20 Cup and the second tournament, the 40-team Grand Midwest Abu Dhabi Cricket Council President's Cup, began at the weekend.

The Twenty20 tournament saw Pankaj Samant and Shivank Vijaykumar both score centuries, to become the first schoolboy cricketers to do so in a tournament conducted by ADCC.

At the weekend, Vijaykumar highlighted his promise with 60 off 29 deliveries in the academy's 113-run defeat to United Bank Limited in the opening round of the cup competition.

"There are some very talented cricketers who have already made the mark at the age group level and are now beginning to go beyond," Qazi Ayub, the head coach of the academy, said.

"It is a very interesting season for some of the youngsters in the academy trying to win a spot in the UAE age group squad for the U19 World Cup. It is a once in a life opportunity for those who can make it to the team, because the UAE gets the opportunity as the host team."

apassela@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE