Home team UAE have been preparing hard for Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 2 to be played in three of the ICC’s grounds in Dubai in April. “We’ve been working hard on fitness and fielding and gelling together,” says UAE coach Kabir Khan, “we’re ready to go all the way.”

“The difficulty that any coach and any player for the UAE face is getting the right amount of time and the conditions in which to prepare. I’m a big believer that things should get to be as professional as possible so that the players who face so much pressure sometimes from having to support their families don’t feel they have to sacrifice their jobs to play cricket,” says Kabir, who coached Afghanistan prior to the UAE. “The Emirates Cricket Board have done a lot in speaking to the players’ employers to get them the necessary days of leave and compensations for being off work and it’s helped a lot. I’ve had the boys playing game scenarios at Sharjah Stadium every Wednesday and on Saturdays, after their club matches on Fridays, have had them back for training. On Saturday we beat Bermuda by 15 runs in a warm-up and it was good to see them do well against tough competition. At this stage I’m not really teaching anything too technical it’s about helping them relax and getting them in the right frame of mind to play,” says UAE’s coach.

UAE captain Khurram Khan
Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 2 was won by UAE in 2007, under Kabir, and since then he’s noticed an improvement in all the sides - Bermuda, Namibia, Uganda, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea – gathering in Dubai this year. “Hong Kong are in good form and playing with confidence after winning Division 3, Bermuda are strong, PNG are always dangerous and Namibia and Uganda are tough. We’ve picked a team that I feel gives us the best chance in the conditions to win the competition. Standards have improved everywhere, I can see a lot of positive changes. What I felt the UAE needed was to bring in attacking bowlers, those who can take wickets, put their hands up even if the batsmen have made a low score and say ‘I’m going to win this for the team’.”

Conditions in Dubai mean that 250 will be a good score. “They’ve used Pakistani soil to make the Global Cricket Academy grounds and they are what I say are ‘supporting wickets’, it’s not going to turn square but there’s bounce for the spinners, the ball’s going to come on to the bat and for the pace-bowlers there’s going to be swing early on and life enough even at the end of the day if they have the ability to use it. It’s not totally batsman-friendly and there’ll be good opportunities for the bowlers.” As with the other sides in the competition UAE have a team packed with all-rounders and new players off-spinner Nasir Aziz, the lanky paceman Irfan Sajjad, specialist batsman Shaiman Anwar and wicket-keeper Swapnil Patil are spoken of as great talents by their coach. “We want the pressure to come off (captain) Khurram and Saqib, in the past UAE relied on them for the majority of runs and couldn’t fill in if ever they failed. Now there’s more balance in the side and I really feel we have a good chance. Division 1 and the I Cup is where we want to be.”

Khurram Khan and Mohammad Tauqir Saqib Ali

UAE and Kabir Khan have a good track record. Nevertheless World Cricket League Division 2 is going to ask a lot of them and all the other teams. Kabir: “The main thing is that I want commitment and that we play hard and tough cricket. I’ve worked a lot on ‘tactical cricket’ with them, mental cricket. That’s what it needs in this part of the world, and at this level you need to be able to handle pressure and stress. We’re in good spirits, we’re ready to play.”

Pictures by Peter Lim

Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 2 Schedule
New Territory For Hong Kong
UAE Country Profile

Filed March 30th, 2011