UAE captain Rohan Mustafa has told his team-mates to enjoy playing in the ICC World Cup Qualifier, saying all the pressure is on the Test nations and not themselves.
The UAE open their campaign against Papua New Guinea at Zimbabwe’s Harare Sports Club on Sunday, knowing their chances of claiming one of the two spots for the 2019 showpiece event in England are very slim.
That’s because two-time winners and reigning World T20 champions West Indies and Afghanistan will be the two favourites in a 10-team competition that also consists of Ireland, Netherlands, hosts Zimbabwe, Nepal, Scotland and Hong Kong.
But while Mustafa admits nothing is impossible, he will tell his players to “enjoy every game that they play”.
“It’s a big tournament and it’s a good opportunity to make history of reaching the World Cup,” said the all-rounder, whose side were beaten by Nepal and West Indies in two warm-up matches last week.
“It’s a big opportunity but we know it will be difficult. I’ve told every player there is no need to take pressure, just enjoy every game that you play. The pressure will be on the Test nations and not on us.”
There is plenty at stake than just the qualification. The UAE must finish in the top three between Nepal, Scotland, Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea to maintain their ODI status and continue receiving ICC funding until 2022.
For head coach Dougie Brown, he admits his side will give it a real go in the competition but conceded retaining ODI status is a priority.
“Obviously, we come here as a lower-ranked side and it would be wrong of us to just say that we are going to qualify for the World Cup,” said the 48-year-old.
“There are four Test nations here, they are probably, and quite rightly, thinking they have World Cup qualification very much in their hands.
“But for us, retaining the ODI status is very important. In order to do that, we have to qualify for the Super Six. That said, there is a little bit of dream and all of us believe we might qualify for the World Cup.
“Obviously at this stage, a lot of cricket has to be played and we have to play exceptionally well, but we have seen so far in the warm-up games, everybody can beat everybody in this tournament and all we need to do is to get on the right side of good fortune, make sure the players are playing well, which they are, have the confidence and maybe create a little bit of momentum and who knows?”
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