UAE star Naveed to play in the Hong Kong T20 Blitz

Denzil Pinto 23/02/2017
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Hong Kong bound: Naveed

The 29-year-old will represent Hung Hom JD Jaguars for the second consecutive season in the five-day competition, starting March 8. However, last year the event did not feature big international stars.

Naveed will be the second UAE player to play in a world-class T20 competition following Chirag Suri’s purchase by Gujarat Lions in the Indian Premier League on Monday.

And, just like Suri, Naveed can look forward to meeting the likes of World Twenty20 winning captain Darren Sammy, South African off-spinner Johan Botha and New Zealand spinner James Franklin, who will be among his team-mates.

And with Shahid Afridi, Tymal Mills, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Jesse Ryder all set to feature, Naveed says he cannot wait to take to the field.

“I am extremely delighted to be playing in the Hong Kong T20 Blitz next month,” said the UBL player.

“I really enjoyed playing last year as it was a new challenge for me and  overall the experience was wonderful. I really cannot wait to play again because this competition has already attracted some big names.”

While he said it will be a learning experience, he just wants to prove his worth and show why he’s highly regarded in the UAE national set-up by doing something that he does best – taking wickets.

“Obviously, it’s going to be a tough tournament but my targets are to be as consistent as I can whether that’s on the training pitch or during matches. Every ball I bowl, I will go out there and give my best.

“That’s all I can do. It will be a great opportunity for me to learn from some of the great superstars around the world and it’s going to be hard to get wickets.

“Hopefully, my experience from last year will also help me play well in the conditions.”

Naveed went unsold in this year’s Pakistan Super League but he hopes this opportunity could be just the start of playing in elite competitions.

“I feel it’s a great platform for me to show my skills and announce myself around the world. Hopefully this can be the start of raising my profile and playing in some of the biggest competitions around the world like the PSL.”

One man who is thrilled with the news is interim AUE head coach Dougie Brown.

The former Warwickshire coach has only been in charge of the national team since the start of the month and is confident Naveed will impress. “I’m absolutely delighted,” he said. “I’ve got no doubt that Naveed can do really well. He’s got some pace and skills. He hits the ball very hard as a batter and I’m sure his bowling skills and pace and experience will see him put in some decent performances.”

He hopes more of his players can follow in the footsteps of Suri and Naveed.

“One of the challenges I’ve set the guys is that there are many T20 competitions around the world. There is no reason at all why any other players should not be featuring in these T20 competitions,” he said. “My challenge to the rest of the group is that I want more of them to be competing and it’s up to them to show what they need to do to play in these competitions.”

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Australia series is the ultimate finale to India's home season

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Players from India and Australia have regularly clashed on the field over the years.

The long home Indian season has reached its final stage and it’s an opportunity for the squad and management to assess where exactly they are as a team.

India have never had such a dedicated season but this time the board decided to invite New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and now Australia for a full campaign of cricket, with a staggering 13 Tests for Indian fans to enjoy.

The upcoming four-match series against the Australians will show if the Indian side has filled any gaps in the team and also provide a glimpse of the bunch of players that will take the side forward, especially away from home.

Against New Zealand, England and Bangladesh, Virat Kohli and the management got numerous opportunities to fiddle with the line-up, some instances more forcedvthan others, and now they should have a clear idea about which players should slot in which position.

What has worked in India’s favour is that almost every player and combination they have tried in Tests has worked out well.

Be it Jayant Yadav’s all-round show against England, Parthiv Patel’s superlative effort as the replacement for wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha or Karun Nair’s triple century, the Indians have tasted success more often than not with their moves.

The more established names in the squad have been in great form as well. Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Murali Vijay, Ravi Ashwin, and Ravindra Jadeja have all been on fire, with others chipping in as well.

What is needed now is to have a first-choice team in place and plan the future around them.

The Australians, despite their shocking recent record in Asia, are unlikely to be pushovers. Yes, they have lost nine Tests in a row in Asia and completely overhauled their team at the end of last year but that’s the thing – they have nothing to lose. And the Indian team will know that.

Australian players know the conditions well. Steven Smith, David Warner, Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc have played a substantial number of matches in India across formats and know most of the players through the IPL. Also, they are the one team that always gets under the skin of the Indian team, every single time.

While Harbhajan Singh said that even if the Aussies play at their best they can hope for a 3-0 defeat at best, there are certain areas where the Indians do need to tighten up.

Both England and Bangladesh piled up massive first innings totals against India and while their strong batting line-up stood up to the challenge resolutely, that can’t be a template for the future. In fact, during the England series, the visitors dominated large parts of the five-Test clash, which was not reflected in the 4-0 result.

If the Aussies score 400 plus, Starc and Hazlewood can put the Indians under pressure like no other pair has done thus far. That’s not a position their batting line-up will be relishing, no matter what form they are in.

Also, the Indian fast bowlers need to make their presence felt a bit more. That they have maintained their intensity and provided critical breakthroughs in almost all the matches is laudable. But it is imperative they match the firepower of the Aussie quicks.

They need to throw their weight around a bit more as some of them, like Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, will be the main bowlers for India during the Champions Trophy in England in June and need to grab more of the limelight.

India have followed the process perfectly and have worked very hard for their wins this season. No one can accuse them of relying on dustbowls for ‘cheap’ wins.

How they fare against an Australian team that is starting afresh and will most likely attack from the get-go will give an indication whether the No. 1 Test team will stay at that position.

Time and tide wait for none

Indian cricket seems to be in a hurry to move beyond Mahendra Singh Dhoni. After the wicket-keeper batsman gave up captaincy of the Indian team, it was thought he would at least get to lead his IPL side Rising Pune Supergiants in the upcoming edition. But on the eve of the players auction, it was announced that Aussie batsman Smith had replaced Dhoni as the skipper of the Pune team.

According to reports, Dhoni has been asked to make way for a new leader. That an IPL franchise thought an Australian captain would be better than Dhoni is staggering. He knows T20 cricket inside out and is undoubtedly at his best in the shortest format in Indian conditions. But that won’t happen for some time.

At least, Dhoni will get an opportunity to play with even greater freedom in T20s. Still, the leadership episode has escalated quickly and has pushed Dhoni a bit more out of the spotlight. How quickly things change.

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UAE permanent head coach to be appointed by May

Denzil Pinto 18/02/2017
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Zayed Abbas.

The ECB has been searching Aaqib Javed’s full-time successor since the former Pakistan pacer ended his successful four-year stint as head coach in April of last year.

Since then, former England internationals Paul Franks and Owais Shah led the side as interim coaches on short temporary deals with former Warwickshire chief Dougie Brown now at the helm on a three-month contract.

Brown admitted he would be interested in extending his stay once it expires in May and Zayed Abbas, a member on the ECB board, says there’s a suitable candidate on their radar.

“We have a target in mind and definitely we will appoint a coach before Dougie’s term is over,” he told Sport360.

“This is our time frame and this is why we have selected this period of time. We are confident we will be able to announce the new head coach soon.

“After Aaqib Javed left last year, we didn’t fill that role as we wanted to make sure we had the right person who can work with the boys, communicate with them. We are still in the process. On extending Dougie’s deal, it’s possible but based on the ECB’s directions.”

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