UAE announce squad for Desert T20 tournament

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Battle Royale: The UAE will once again lock horns with Afghanistan

Medium-pacer Mohammed Shanil, Zahoor Ahmed and batsman Adnan Mufti have been included in the 15-man party for the January 14-20 competition, having impressed for the national team. Last month, in his only appearance, Mufti, 32, struck a superb half-century, scoring 69 runs as the UAE came agonisingly close to stunning England Lions.

Shanil has only taken two wickets in three friendly matches and will look to add to that tally in the tournament that will see the top eight Associate nations in action. There were no major omissions from the party with the national selectors sticking with the majority of the squad, led by Amjad Javed, that competed in the 3-0 series defeat to Afghanistan in Dubai last month.

“We are very confident in the players who have been selected ahead of the UAE’s first game and we are expecting our team to post a strong, winning result,” said Waleed Bukhatir, ECB member and chief selector ahead of the UAE’s opener against Namibia in Abu Dhabi on January 15.

“This group of players continues to encourage the Board with their commitment to increasing their fitness levels, fine-tuning their skills, and embracing a winning mind-set. We look forward to their hard work being rewarded.”

The UAE will take on familiar foes Afghanistan and Ireland in their group with the top two qualifying for the semi-finals at Dubai International Stadium on January 20.

“There are eight talented Associates competing in this tournament, which will provide supporters and followers of all participating countries with seven days of compelling, engaging cricket,” said Bukhatir. “Emirates Cricket is very proud to act as host and bring this opportunity to our fellow Associates.”

UAE SQUAD: Amjad Javed, Mohammed Shahzad, Shaiman Anwar, Rohan Mustafa, Mohammed Usman, Rameez Shahzad, Ghulam Shabbir, Mohammed Qasim, Adnan Mufti, Mohammed Naveed, Ahmed Raza, Imran Haider, Mohammed Shanil, Zahoor Ahmed

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ESM Cricket Academy ties up with Ashwin

Denzil Pinto 24/12/2016
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East Sports Management’s Cricket Academy (ESMCA) was only just launched yesterday but their promising youths can already look forward to developing their skills at India all-rounder Ravichandran Ashwin’s Gen-Next Cricket Academy as part of their exchange programme.

Twenty-four hours after being named the ICC Cricketer of the Year, Ashwin was back on the field, passing on his knowledge to 26 budding cricketers during a masterclass clinic at GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail, before officially opening the UAE’s latest cricket academy in Dubai.

Having mentored kids himself and seen them strive in India, Ashwin was impressed with ESMCA’s vision and wants to give the UAE stars of tomorrow a chance of playing against their peers in Chennai next year.

“I’m really excited about this as there are some boys who are exceptionally talented so hopefully I can see them next year in India,” said the 30-year-old, who finished top wicket-taker with 28 scalps in the 4-0 Test series victory against England.

“This is just the start. We want to make sure that matches are possible for them.

“This only helps a player become better. It also makes the character of a specific person. I’m 30 but cricket has taught me a lot, it has moulded my character and put me through a stern test.”

Ashwin was speaking during a press conference held at the Shyam Bhatia Cricket Museum.

Kobus Olivier, director of cricket at ESMCA, revealed small groups will be flown to India in 2017 and hopes to expand the partnership in the future.

“What I’m trying to do with Ashwin is something sustainable and not just a one-off thing,” said the South African.

“Letting them go to India will be a hugely valuable experience but I want to take this exchange programme one step further by bringing their coaches here to the UAE, while our coaches fly to India to conduct clinics with their boys.”

During his three years in Dubai, Olivier has worked with many talented cricketers in the country but the ex-Kenya CEO insists ESMCA will set the bar high when it comes to coaching.

“I can sum up the aims of this academy in one sentence – we want to set the benchmark for cricket academies in Dubai,” he said.

“I’ve been involved in cricket in the UAE for three years and have been around the academies and they are doing a fantastic job.

“But with East Sports Management, we have the vision to take this to the next level to really help boys that once they reach 15 or 16, they can continue developing.

“We want to open the doors for them to play cricket and hopefully say that in 10 years time, that there’s a guy of ours who is playing in the IPL or has been offered a county deal in England.”

James Bowring, commercial director at East Sports Management, added: “We not only want to create a very high standard training academy but also focus on development of players and pathway to excellence which we have done in our football academy,” he said.

“We want to create talented athletes and take them through to the next level.”

Registration for players, aged five and above, to join ESMCA is now open with sessions held at six
selected GEMS schools in Dubai.

For more information, email [email protected]

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Cricket Xtra: South Africa's bravery backfires

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ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 24: Faf du Plessis of South Africa bats during day one of the Third Test match between Australia and South Africa at Adelaide Oval on November 24, 2016 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Morne de Klerk/Getty Images)

Aggression is an excellent trait in teams. Fans expect players to go in with a positive mindset and aim for a win first and then play accordingly, even if the odds are stacked against them. In the long run, such an attitude percolates down to the entire set-up and players joining the squad automatically pick up that positivity.

It all looks good until it backfires. And sometimes it does so horribly. The third Test between Australia and South Africa in Adelaide had an explosive build-up, with the Proteas rallying behind their skipper Faf du Plessis who was found guilty of ball tampering in the second Test.

The South Africans believed Faf had been unfairly targeted, with murmurs of the host broadcaster ‘following’ the South African players for any possible infringement.

However, the fact is there was evidence against Faf and he was found guilty of using a foreign substance to shine the ball. Whether the entire exercise of looking for sweets and mints which can be used to add shine to the ball makes sense is another matter.

Cut to the opening day of the pink-ball Test and we saw a charged up South African team bat first. The Aussie pacers reduced the visitors to 161 for seven and it was up to Faf to pull the team out of the hole. He did so superbly, scoring what must be one of his most satisfying centuries. The Proteas were nine down for 259 when the skipper, batting on 118, decided to declare the innings to have a crack at the Australian batting for one hour before stumps.

Now, I am all for attacking cricket. But there is a fine line that separates bravery and being impetuous. Du Plessis and the South Africans pushed it a bit too far and all credit to Australia for taking the surprise declaration in their stride and playing without any haste.

Once opener Usman Khawaja cracked a superlative century and helped earn a 124-run lead, the South Africans had fallen well behind with the hosts holding all the aces.

What must have helped the Australians play with a clear frame of mind were the wholesale changes made to the team following their defeats in the first two Tests. Not much was expected from them and it was the beginning of a new journey. South Africa’s shocking declaration at such a low score, undoubtedly, allowed them to take control of the match.

It was another instance of a team in a dominant position taking a chance with ‘sporting’ declarations and paying the price for it.

In the fourth Test of the 2001 Ashes series, acting Australia captain Adam Gilchrist declared the second innings on 176 for four, giving a beleaguered England side, trailing 3-0, an enticing target of 315 with a little over a day’s play left. The last day was dominated by Mark Butcher, who hit a majestic 173 not out to steer the hosts to a six-wicket win.

Then in the 2008 Chennai Test, England were 386 runs ahead with one wicket in hand when captain Kevin Pietersen decided to invite India to have a go at the target with four sessions to go. Opener Virender Sehwag hit a typically aggressive 83 off 68 balls to leave the Indians 256 runs away with nine wickets in hand. Sachin Tendulkar hit a memorable century in the final day to seal an improbable win.

While the intentions behind such daring declarations might be laudable, it can easily backfire. Teams hurt by these moves generally abandon such bravado and I suspect we won’t see the South Africans going for surprise declarations in the foreseeable future.


Open for debate

During the second day’s play in the Mohali Test between India and England, the rules regarding obstructing the field of play came up for debate and deliberation.

It started in the last ball of the third over when opener Murali Vijay defended the ball back to James Anderson, who threw the ball at the stumps with Vijay unmoved at the crease. The ball hit his pad and England instinctively appealed for obstruction.

The latest amendment to the rule means that the fielding side can appeal if the batsman is seen to have made a deliberate attempt to block the ball, irrespective of whether a run out would have
occurred or not.

This rule means bowlers can be tempted to simply hurl the ball at the batsman who might just be standing in his crease and if the ball hits the pads, leave it to the umpire to judge whether the batsman was looking to indulge in any foul play.

The rule change was made to stop batsmen from suddenly changing direction while running to come between the throw and the wickets.

But now, some might be tempted to test the resolve of the batsman and leave it to the umpire. It does not make for good viewing and only adds to the hostility between teams.

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