Khurram Khan-led Emirates side bullish and are scheming to beat big teams such as Pakistan and India, reports Paul Radley.
UAE cricket team confident of creating an upset at ICC World Cup
The UAE’s cricketers are using Pakistan’s shock defeat to Ireland in the 2003 World Cup as reason to believe they can succeed against the same opposition at next year’s event.
The national team have been drawn in Group B for the tournament, which means they are guaranteed fixtures against the Asian giants India and Pakistan.
Given the UAE squad mostly comprises Pakistani, Indian and Sri Lankan expatriate players, the incentive for the players is substantial.
According to Ahmed Raza, the UAE-born vice-captain, the prospect of an encounter with Pakistan in New Zealand in 13 months time should hold no fear for his team.
“You can always expect an upset from the Pakistani team, so you never know,” Raza said.
“They can lose a Test match to Zimbabwe, they can lose at the World Cup to Ireland. We have seen it happen.
“We are not behind Ireland by any means. We have very good skills now, we have to work on our fitness and raise that level.
“We are competing with the big guns now, not Nepal or Uganda. We need to compete with them skill-wise and fitness-wise.”
Aaqib Javed, the UAE coach, says his side are not just looking to compete when they reach Australia and New Zealand – they are aiming for an upset.
“We are definitely looking hard at Ireland, Zimbabwe or West Indies,” the former Pakistan Test player said.
“On any day we can give a tough time to anyone, even on sporting pitches. I am very confident in our bowling unit and I think on our day we can be very dangerous.
“In 12 months there is a lot to be done, but I think we can achieve something big.
“Tomorrow we will go to the gym, give them a comprehensive plan and you will see this UAE team is a new outfit with new aims. In one year’s time I promise we will have taken this team to a professional level.”
Many of the UAE’s leading players, such as Amjad Ali, Saqib Ali and Vikrant Shetty, were highly regarded players in the countries of their birth before emigrating to these shores.
Aaqib even suggested this week that Khurram Khan, the UAE captain, would “100 per cent” definitely have played for Pakistan had he not made the move to Dubai.
As such, many of the players will be keen to show what their homelands missed out on when they meet them next year.
However, Raza says the prospect of playing against their country of origin does not carry the same importance for all of the players.
Raza was born and brought up in Dubai, learnt all his cricket here, and thus deems the UAE his home – not Pakistan.
“I have never played any sort of cricket in Pakistan so they will be just like any other opposition for me,” Raza said.
“Amjad Javed and myself were born in UAE, were learnt our cricket in school and university and I started playing age-group levels with the UAE.
“I have never got the chance to play in Pakistan. All my family are based in Dubai and I have never stayed in Pakistan for long. I see the UAE as my home.”