The UAE open their ICC World Cup Qualifier campaign on Sunday against Papua New Guinea. They are among 10 nations vying for the two berths for the 2019 World Cup with Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, West Indies, Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland, Hong Kong and Nepal also in action.
Here are the talking points as the UAE prepare for battle.
EXPERIENCED PLAYERS NEED TO STEP UP
Rohan Mustafa, Ahmed Raza, Mohammad Naveed, Shaiman Anwar and Chirag Suri – these are the players who were involved the last time the UAE played in a World Cup Qualifier in 2014. They reached their target in New Zealand, claiming the top two spots to book their place in the 2015 showpiece event. All four apart from Suri have regularly been involved in the national set-up since then and between them have more than 550 caps.
With the majority of the players experiencing their first World Cup Qualifier, it will be up to the quartet to step up and make their experience count.
The 32-run defeat to West Indies on Thursday was another instance where the UAE only had themselves to blame for their defeat. Set a target of 116, the batsmen struggled before being all out for 83 and that is no surprise.
In their eight previous matches, six half-centuries and a century has been scored with those coming from four players – Ghulam Shabbir (two fifties), Ashfaq Ahmed (one century and fifty), Rohan Mustafa (two fifties) and Rameez Shahzad (fifty). The batsmen have to raise their game and concentrate on building partnerships. Bowlers alone cannot win every game.
THE IMPORTANCE OF RETAINING ODI STATUS
It’s more than just a World Cup qualifying tournament where the top two sides will reach the 2019 showpiece event. While the likes of Ireland and West Indies are already assured of ODI status, that privilege is something that the UAE will be playing for this week.
Head coach Dougie Brown has revealed ODI status and retaining ICC funding is the primary objective and not qualification, considering they are massive underdogs to reach the World Cup. The task is straightforward. Finish as one of the top three sides between Nepal, Hong Kong, Scotland and Papua New Guinea, and ODI status until 2022 is sealed.
To have a realistic chance, qualification to the Super Six stage is essential. The UAE cricketers have seen the benefits of what ICC funding can do to an ODI nation with the launch of the first-ever professional contracts and the development of new programmes by the Emirates Cricket Board. If they cannot maintain their ODI status, if could have serious implications for not just the players but the ECB’s structure.
The UAE will not be stepping into unknown territory when they open their campaign. In their group, they have faced Ireland, West Indies, Netherlands and Papua New Guinea before with some good success. Last year, they completed a T20 series whitewash over Papua New Guinea while also defeating Netherlands 2-1 for their first 50-over series triumph on Dutch soil. Should they reach the Super Six stage, then the likes of Nepal and Scotland await – teams they have beaten before in the last 12 months.
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