x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

World Cricket League: Difference against Ireland was telling on UAE's amateurs

The home players must have been as green as the Ireland playing kit with envy over the opposition's standards of fielding, branded civvies, bat sponsorship deals - and their experiences.

UAE batsmen, such as Shaiman Anwar, left, were guilty of reckless shots against Ireland. Photos by Satish Kumar / The National
UAE batsmen, such as Shaiman Anwar, left, were guilty of reckless shots against Ireland. Photos by Satish Kumar / The National

In one respect, maybe it is a good thing the leading cricketers of the UAE national team have day jobs to go to.

Unlike professional cricketers, who have nothing much else to worry about, the local players have no time to fester over defeats.

Most of Ireland's players had not played in five months before arriving here for this month's series of matches against the UAE.

You can imagine their captain William Porterfield, for example, had been counting down the days before arriving in Sharjah, ever since making back-to-back golden ducks the last time he went to the wicket for his country.

As he pointed out afterwards, you cannot score runs in the indoor nets in Birmingham.

By contrast, while dropping a catch or giving away some of the overthrows that contributed to a second World Cup qualifying loss to Ireland here will, of course, annoy the home players, they are too busy to be able to worry about it for long.

For instance, those who work as Emirates flight crew might have to be back on a flight tomorrow, dealing with discombobulated passengers needing to find space for their hand luggage in the overhead lockers. Real problems in the real world, then.

For that small mercy they should be thankful.

If the national team are going to progress from this competition, it is vital they are not waylaid by the psychological baggage inflicted on them in losing twice to Ireland here.

The Irish team are by far and away the best side in the World Cricket League. If the UAE were to take any points from their two 50 over matches against them in Sharjah this week, it would have been a bonus towards their mission to reach Australia in 2015.

That is how they saw it when their opposition arrived. The UAE's cricketers made a point of trying to compartmentalise first the four-day match which preceded these limited-over matches, then the series as a whole.

If they lost, as the form guide suggested they might, then they did not want to carry the negative thoughts with them into their future assignments in Canada this summer, then at home to Namibia later in the year.

Win all four of those remaining games and they will be in with a realistic chance of qualifying for the World Cup, without having to worry about the hazardous repechage competition in New Zealand at the start of next year.

And yet that is far easier said than done. There will be scars from this. This series was less men versus boys - the UAE did have a far higher average age, after all - as professionals versus amateurs. And the difference was a striking one.

The home players must have been as green as the Ireland playing kit with envy over the shape the opposition players were in, their standards of fielding, their branded civvies, their bat sponsorship deals. Their experiences. The stamps in their passports.

Ireland's players have the six-pack stomachs of professional sportsmen. In comparison, a number of the UAE players have the paunch of an office worker who has to eat at his desk to make it to training in time once work hours are finished.

After yesterday's defeat the UAE coach Aaqib Javed bemoaned (perhaps the wrong word, given his perennially upbeat attitude to life) the fact his players had not had one daylight training session in the build up to these matches.

In lieu of that they have spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings under the less-than-mega-watt light bulbs of the net area at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, making do.

That is what they are used to doing - making do.

If the national team are ever to reach the standards the Irish performed to here, they will need to do more than that.

Aaqib and his captain Khurram Khan were commendably chipper at the close of play yesterday, despite a sense that they could have made Ireland work harder for their wins.

They pointed to the fact their players had been exposed to a standard to which they should aim for.

Becoming an aspiration nation is no bad thing, but there is much ground to cover.


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