x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

UAE cricketers step up but they need depth

The UAE cricket squad should be proud of their recent World Cricket League Division Two tournament win, but their coach, Kabir Khan, points out the team needs more depth to move forward.

Emirates take step up but need depth

It may seem harsh, but the UAE will have to keep their celebrations on hold after winning the International Cricket Council's (ICC) World Cricket League Division Two.

Starting with a win over Namibia and finishing with another victory over the same opponents, who defeated them in the Intercontinental Shield final last December, the UAE remained unbeaten through the tournament.

The win took them to No 17 in the world rankings and they will also receive the ICC's High Performance grant, along with the other top-four finishers Namibia, Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong.

The bigger prize of the tournament, however, was the ticket for two teams to the Intercontinental Cup, which will assure the teams 12-months of four-day cricket against Ireland, Scotland, Holland, Kenya, Afghanistan and Canada.

The ICC's Development Committee will make the decision on which teams have earned that right at their meeting in the first week of May in Botswana, taking not just the results of this tournament into consideration but many different criteria.

With the infrastructure available here for the game and the team's impressive performance, the UAE should certainly get the nod for the promotion.

The country has three venues which have already hosted Test matches and the ICC's Global Cricket Academy is a welcome addition.

The UAE will, however, not be waiting for the decision before they start their preparations for the more demanding four-day cricket that lies ahead. With the matches expected to start around the end of May, they want to be ready should they get the call and Kabir Khan, the coach, has promised to start working straight away.

The former Pakistan bowler, who guided Afghanistan from Division Five to one-day international status inside two years, knows the shortcomings of his squad and the most glaring is the absence of one of his ilk: a fast bowler who could get the early breakthroughs.

During the Division Two tournament, Shadeep Silva, a left-arm spinner, opened the attack with lone paceman Amjad Javed in five games and once with the UAE Under 19 quick bowler Aqib Malik. The spin-friendly conditions in the UAE were the reason behind that strategy, but Kabir acknowledges they are a bit short in that area.

"We need a few good seamers in this side," Kabir said. "Although conditions here were not for the seamers, they will be if you go to the Intercontinental Cup or if you play other countries in other grounds. The conditions will be different and we might need some seamers.

"We will be looking for this now. This is a huge task for the selectors as well because we need some strike bowlers. If we qualify for the I-Cup, it's not about runs but about getting 20 wickets to win. To get 20 wickets you need the bowlers who can get us 20 wickets.

"We cannot rely on our stock bowlers and let people get themselves out, rather than we getting them out. So that will be our goal. The search is going to start right [now]. We will have one or two days' rest and then I will be calling the selectors."

The UAE will also have to work hard on their fielding, as the coach noted, and switch quickly into the four-day mode. Locally, they play only limited overs cricket and Khurram Khan, the UAE captain, knows the challenges that lie ahead.

"We will have to try harder and harder," Khurram said. "So things will only get tougher from here, not easier."

Khurram has been a long-time servant of UAE cricket, playing since 2001, and he will turn 40 in June. Mohammed Tauqir and Arshad Ali are also on the wrong side of 30. That is perhaps the reason Kabir spent much of the early days in his tenure with the juniors. He knows they need new players ready to take over once the Khurrams and Tauqirs decide to call it a day.