x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

UAE spinner Aziz may fail to turn the tide at World Cup qualifier

Aziz due for tests on action in Australia but team's top wicket-taker is still waiting on visa with World Cup qualifier approaching, reports Paul Radley.

UAE bowler Nasir Aziz, left, will probably not play in the World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand. Chris Young / The National
UAE bowler Nasir Aziz, left, will probably not play in the World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand. Chris Young / The National

SHARJAH // The UAE’s hopes of reaching the 2015 World Cup look set to be dealt a significant blow as they are likely to be deprived the services of their leading bowler, Nasir Aziz.

As per ICC regulations, the off-spinner has been ordered to go to Perth in Australia for analysis of his bowling action at a biomechanics laboratory.

The Pakistan-born bowler was reported twice for a suspected illegal action at last month’s World Twenty20 Qualifier here.

He had been due to head to Western Australia earlier this month, but was unable to travel after a delay in the visa process.

He still has yet to secure a visa, meaning he is almost certain to run out of time to get the necessary clearance to play in January’s qualifying tournament for the 50-over World Cup.

The national team are due to fly to New Zealand in just over one week and he looks likely to be replaced in the tour party by Asadullah Sharif, the seam bowler.

His absence could be a substantial blow. He is the leading wicket-taker in the team this year and the bedrock of the UAE’s slow-bowling battery.

The national team are already without one of their most reliable batsmen after Saqib Ali, who did not make the squad because of a chronic back complaint.

However, Aaqib Javed, the UAE coach, remains cheerful about his side’s chances of securing one of the two qualifying places in the 10-team tournament.

“We have four good seamers already so we will have a good bowling unit for New Zealand conditions,” the former Pakistan seamer said.

“We think that a strong seam attack will be important against sides like Nepal and Hong Kong [who are in the same pool as the UAE] as they are good against spinners.

“Against sides with players from the subcontinent it is not a bad option if you bank on seamers,” Aaqib said.

Even without Aziz and Saqib, the UAE have reasons to be optimistic. They were highly impressive in the 50-over league, which preceded the New Zealand tournament, and only just missed out on one of the two qualifying berths on offer then.

Furthermore, their confidence has been swelled by earning a place at the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh in March.

Now there is the chance to play at a second global showpiece event, and Khurram Khan, the captain, thinks that would have positive ramifications for the sport here.

“It’s going to do a lot of good to UAE cricket,” the long-serving all-rounder said.

“The last time we played in a World Cup was way back in 1996. Lots of rules have been changed since then, for the Associate teams.

“Now, we’ve got a very good team, and I think this time we have got a very good chance.

“Over the last three or four months we’ve been doing really well, so I think it’s going to re-energise UAE cricket if we continue the momentum and qualify.”