x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

With World Cup qualifiers ahead, hard work for UAE cricket begins now

Emirates' amateur cricketers have tougher part of grinding schedule coming up ahead as they plan two-pronged assault, writes Paul Radley.

Shaiman Anwar, left, and his UAE teammates will have to hoist themselves for must-win games ahead to qualify for the world stage. Chris Young for The National
Shaiman Anwar, left, and his UAE teammates will have to hoist themselves for must-win games ahead to qualify for the world stage. Chris Young for The National

Given that cricket never really stops in this country, it feels a little odd to suggest the most important season ever for UAE cricket is just about to start.

The leading cricketers in this country rarely do get a break, after all. Elsewhere, James Anderson, Graeme Swann and Alastair Cook have been allowed to sit out the ongoing one-day international series between England and Australia.

They are between Ashes series, which are a little intense and so they are permitted to miss work in between, and go off and do things like watching Formula One grands prix - with their sponsors footing the bill - instead.

If they think they have a tough workload, England's finest should try the treadmill of the typical UAE international cricketer for size.

Since the start of March, Ahmed Raza, the long-standing vice-captain of the national team, has been in attendance at around 24 days of international cricket, in destinations as diverse as Canada, Nepal and Singapore.

All the players have to juggle their cricket commitments around holding down a day job.

Given that many of them are employed on the strength of their cricket skills, they are also be expected to turn out for the staff team when time permits.

And yet the busy period is only just about to start. Between now and the end of November the UAE's future participation in two different World Cup formats will be decided.

The national team still harbour slender hopes of making it straight to the next 50 over version, in Australia and New Zealand in two years' time.

The players will return to training at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium this evening as they begin their preparations for two must-win World Cricket League matches against Namibia at the end of this month.

The side have rarely been closer to a return to the game's biggest stage for the first time since the UAE's sole World Cup appearance in 1996.

Then the national team will take part in the World Twenty20 qualifier, a 16-team tournament which involves 72 matches taking place across the emirates in November.

All in all, the UAE's cricketers must spend almost as much time balancing their annual leave and lieu entitlements as they do practicing their forward defences.

Aaqib Javed, the former Pakistan Test player who is the full-time head coach of UAE cricket, has said in the past he is awed by the commitment his players show.

The coach also has a third major assignment to oversee. Yesterday he was running the rule over a wider probables squad of the country's leading teenaged players at Dubai Sports City.

Unlike their senior colleagues, the under 19 side are guaranteed a place at next year's World Cup as hosts, and Aaqib is hopeful he can forge a competitive side before then.

"It is easier to start at the youth level," Aaqib said.

"When you are involving seniors you need more money because if you are bringing them in you need money to compensate them.

"My philosophy is that you build leaders. You help them to become a leader."

THE QUALIFIERS

50-over World Cup, 2015
Status Two matches left in the qualifying league
UAE prospects Hopeful but chances look slim via the World Cricket League. There is a second chance via a repechage competition at the start of next year.
What needs to happen The UAE have to beat Namibia twice – and handsomely – if they are to stand a chance of beating Holland and Afghanistan to the second automatic qualifying berth. If they do, they move level on points with the Dutch, but the UAE also need to improve their net run rate significantly. Even if they do overturn the deficit, they will be reliant on Kenya beating Afghanistan in one of their two matches in Sharjah next month.
Table
Team    P    W    L    Tie    NR    Pts
Ireland    14    11    1    1    1    24
Holland    14    8    4    1    1    18
Afghanistan    12    7    4    0    1    15
Scotland    14    7    6    0    1    15
UAE    12    7    5    0    0    14
Kenya    12    5    7    0    0    10
Namibia    12    2    10    0    0    4
Canada    14    1    11    0    2    4
N/R – no result
Fixtures
Sept 27 UAE v Namibia, Sharjah
Sept 29 UAE v Namibia, Sharjah
Oct 2 Afghanistan v Kenya, Sharjah
Oct 4 Afghanistan v Kenya, Sharjah

World Twenty, 2014
Status UAE host the 16-team qualifying tournament in November. Six teams will qualify to play in the World T20 in Bangladesh in March.
UAE prospects Optimistic, although the format makes form difficult to judge. The national team only just missed out on playing in the West Indies in 2010 after losing a tight decider against Afghanistan – but then missed the next qualifying competition altogether.

Under 19 World Cup, 2014
Status UAE have qualified as hosts
UAE prospects Showed promising form in reaching the final of an ACC under-19 competition, but the prospect of facing sides from Test nations will be a challenge.

pradley@thenational.ae

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