Aaqib Javed will be greeted by a captive audience when he is introduced to his new charges on his first day as the head coach of the UAE.
UAE cricketers delighted to welcome a 'big name in the coaching world'
DUBAI // Aaqib Javed will be greeted by a captive audience when he is introduced to his new charges today, on his first day as the head coach of the UAE.
The former Pakistan swing bowler becomes the seventh coach of the national team in the past six years, having taken over from his compatriot, Kabir Khan.
Javed, 39, is no stranger to these shores. His final assignment in his previous role as Pakistan's bowling coach was spent here over the past two months, for their series against England.
Neither is he a stranger to the players who are about to come under his charge. Javed was an international bowler of great renown in the 1990s, which represents the formative years for many of the players in the national team.
He played 34 of his 163 one-day internationals at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, which will now become his base in his coaching role, and his feats there figure strongly in the memories of some of his charges.
The day he dismissed Ravi Shastri, Mohammed Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar in successive balls, as part of his haul of seven for 37 in 1991, is seared on the mind of one of the UAE's Indian contingent.
"I remember so many games involving him at Sharjah, because my dad was a very keen fan of cricket," Naeemuddin Aslam, the UAE-born batsman of Indian origin, said. "When Pakistan played India, you could not get a better game than that in the UAE. Of all those games, Aaqib Javed's hat-trick against India stands out in my mind.
"All three were lbws, which was controversial, but controversy aside, he was a brilliant bowler who could take any team apart."
The UAE team is usually drawn from the Pakistan, Sri Lankan and Indian expatriate communities, and the Pakistanis in the squad have not surprisingly welcomed news of his recruitment.
"I watched him playing for Pakistan on the TV when I was young, and he was a very good swing bowler," Arshad Ali, the all-rounder who originates from Sialkot, said.
"He is very experienced and he has been with the Pakistan team for a long while now, so he is a big name in the coaching world."
Javed's new squad are confronted by a different set of challenges from those faced by the professionals he dealt with in Pakistan.
While the likes of Shahid Afridi play internationals, shoot advertisements, then command big pay deals to play Twenty20 cricket, cricketer's in this country have to worry about their day jobs first.
"We still have the same issues of having to come to cricket only after working, or going to college, because of the non-professional nature of the sport in this country," said Aslam.
"But having a cricketer of Aaqib Javed's stature has to be a good thing. Even if you are not in the selection reckoning, it is an incentive to go to nets just to see how he thinks about the game."
Javed's first task will be to help the national team navigate two testing 50-over fixtures against Scotland this week, starting with tomorrow's match at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
The UAE have made an excellent start to the World Cricket League Championship, which will provide two berths for the next World Cup, but undefeated Scotland lie one place above them in second place in the table.