Eyeing a 'Desert Storm' in Aus

Eyeing a 'Desert Storm' in Aus

Eyeing a 'Desert Storm' in Aus

With a team of part-timers, the United Arab Emirates are realistic about their prospects at the World Cup.

As the last team to qualify for the tournament, they are the rank outsiders, facing a stiff challenge of winning a single match let alone the title.

More than half of their squad is aged over 30, with captain Mohammad Tauqir and vice-captain Khurram Khan both in their 40s, and the national body is recognised only as an associate member of the International Cricket Council.

Just qualifying for the World Cup was a feat in itself. The only other time they qualified was in 1996 and things will only get harder in the future with the ICC deciding to trim the 2019 World Cup from 14 to 10 teams.

But for the UAE players and coaching staff, making the World Cup is not only proof they are getting better but also the chance of a lifetime, an opportunity to test themselves against the best in the world.

“I think that in 1996, no-one took the UAE as seriously as they do today,” said coach Aaqib Javed. “There was only limited exposure to the world. People weren't sure how good UAE cricket was.

“But now, people have seen UAE playing at different levels, and I think we can surprise a few people and a few teams.” Most of the players in the 15-man UAE squad were born in either Pakistan, India or Sri Lanka but captain Tauqir is home-bred. A middle-order batsman and off-spinner, the 43-year-old is the joint oldest player in the tournament.

Khurram is the oldest player from any country to score a one-day international hundred but the Emirates Cricket Board wanted Taquir to skipper the team “to promote and showcase Emirati leadership and playing skills on the international sporting stage.”

Although they rarely play against the major cricketing nations, the UAE have shown in their qualifying matches that they do have a strong batting lineup.

Swapnil Patil made 99 not out against Scotland last year when he needed two runs off the last ball and only made a single, while Amjad Ali blasted 98 against Afghanistan.

UAE face a treacherous task winning a match in Group B that contains South Africa, India, Pakistan, West Indies, Zimbabwe and Ireland. But Javed, who was a member of the Pakistan team that won the 1992 World Cup in Australia, knows there is a more at stake. “It is all about inspiring people,” he said.

“The team did really well during the Qualifier 2014. Now it is a tougher task ahead, which the players are excited about. They've got the abilities, so now it is about the mind-set.’
 UAE factfile  Squad: Mohammed Tauqir (captain), Khurram Khan, Swapnil Patil, Saqlain Haider, Amjad Javed, Shaiman Anwar, Amjad Ali, Nasir Aziz, Rohan Mustafa, Manjula Guruge, Andri Berenger, Fahad Al Hashmi, Muhammad Naveed, Kamran Shahzad, Krishna Karate.
Coach: Aaqib Javed

Fixtures — Pool B:
Feb 19: Zimbabwe, Nelson
Feb 25: Ireland, Brisbane
Feb 28: India, Perth
Mar 4: Pakistan, Napier
Mar 12: South Africa, Wellington
Mar 15: West Indies, Napier
World Cup record: Pool stage in 1996.

Key player

Khurram Khan: The Pakistan-born Khan was replaced by Dubai native, and fellow 43-year-old, Mohammed Tauqir as captain for the World Cup where the Gulf side will be appearing for just the second time.

It was a move partly engineered for political reasons as UAE officials look to grow the sport amongst locals rather than depend on imported South Asian talent.

Khan has played 10 ODI in his 11-year career but boasts an average of 53.37, a figure boosted by his undefeated 123 in a six-wicket win over fellow World Cup qualifiers Afghanistan in Dubai in November.

His score allowed him to surpass Sanath Jayasuriya as the oldest ODI centurion in the history of the game.

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