Preparations to identify the next batch of cricketers to represent the UAE at upcoming Under-16 and U-19 tournaments have resumed with Emirates Cricket Board’s training camps for shortlisted players.
More than 40 players, who beat more than 100 hopefuls after impressing in various tournaments this season including the Inter-Emirates tournament, were put through their paces at the ICC Academy yesterday for the second successive weekend as they bid of claiming a berth in the final squads for the UAE.
The national team are set to play in the U-16 ACC West Asia Championship in Qatar and the Under-19 Asia Cup qualifiers in Kuwait in October. The group have more than six weeks to press their case of making the final squads with sessions overseen by UAE assistant Dom Telo.
Afghanistan, Oman and Kuwait are just some of the teams the UAE will face over the coming months and to ensure they’re highly competitive when they take to the field, the boys will undergo an intense camp that will including skill and fitness sessions.
Telo says he’s been impressed with the crop of the players so far.
“The first week was all about the theory base, and the players organised their own individual programmes as well as what we want to achieve and that was really good.
“The majority of the players were at this stage last year while there are a couple of new faces and it was a chance to see where they’re at.
“There are some really good talented players and a lot of them have improved in the last year.”
Desert Cubs Cricket Academy will get the chance to pick the brains of former UAE captain Mohammed Tauqir during their tour to UK next month.
Tauqir, 45, has been a familiar face at the Sharjah-based centre after his two children – Omer and Obaid – joined one of UAE’s top institutions earlier this year.
And with 78 kids, including his two sons, set to test themselves against their peers on English soil between July 25 to August 2, the ex-national spinner will offer his expertise after it was announced he would be part of the contingent.
Tauqir, who skippered the UAE at the 2015 World Cup, will be part of the Desert Cubs parents squad and head coach Presley Polonnowita is delighted to have a man, who won more than 70 caps for his country before his retirement in 2015, on board.
“It’s a great honour to have him with us on this tour and I am sure his vast experience and knowledge of the game will help our squads to do better in English conditions,” he said, whose group will be returning to England for the sixth time.
“To have played for the UAE for more than 10 years, he brings a lot to his role and he’s someone who has played in different conditions around the world.
“If we are thinking of the future of UAE cricket, it’s important to grow the game among Emiratis and I am happy that we could lay the first foundation stone through Desert Cubs tour programmes.”
During their week-long visit, Desert Cubs will field teams in four age groups – Under-12, U-14, U-16 and U-19 with matches in Leeds and Manchester across the 50-overs and two-day formats.
“We have decided not to organise any Twenty20 matches for the kids to play in England and there’s a reason for that,” said Polonnowita.
“The kids play this format a lot in the UAE but we want them to understand the importance of what it takes to play 50-over and two-day matches as it requires a lot of patience and composure.
“It will be great learning curve and I am sure these types of exposure will not only help them to gain overseas experience but also help the UAE in producing quality players in the future.”
As well as the matches, the players can also look forward to training at the Home of Cricket – Lord’s – as well as Headingley in Leeds.
“Practising at Lord’s is a dream to most of the cricket-loving kids and I am happy this dream will become a reality for them during the tour,” said Polonnowita.
“The coaching session at Headingly will be under the supervision of their experienced coaches, which is going to be an added advantage enabling our kids to prepare well for the different local playing conditions.”
Former UAE captain Khurram Khan cannot wait to share his batting expertise after joining ICC Academy as a part-time coach, saying it’s the perfect platform to get his “coaching career going”.
The ex-batsman will find himself in familiar surroundings this summer in a place where he trained regularly during his 14-year international career by passing on his knowledge to budding cricketers as a specialist one-on-one batting coach.
The 45-year-old legend brings plenty of experience, having been a batting mainstay for the national team, scoring more than 5,700 runs in all formats before calling it quits in June 2015.
While he will continue in his full-time job as a senior flight purser for Emirates airlines, Khurram, who is also a national selector for the Emirates Cricket Board, insists it was an opportunity he could not turn down.
“Since I retired I’ve been feeling bored and I wanted to come back,” he said.
“I’ve been doing some coaching courses, I’ve done my Level One and I wanted to do my Level Two in order get back involved with UAE cricket. I want to get my coaching career going and this is something that I always wanted to do. My job got in the way since I work for Emirates and there’s a roster where some days you fly and some days you can’t.
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“Given it’s a part-time role where I can work one-on-one, it’s something that is convenient in my schedule and it’s a really good platform.”
“I always said to the ECB I wanted to do something and I’m a selector now so I’m involved in the process. I thought it was time and I should formally come in on the coaching front.
“Cricket has always been in my blood for a long time and in coaching you have to start somewhere and am very happy to have joined the ICC Academy. I think it’s time to give back. I want to get started and roll in some of my own ideas.”
Khurram joins a strong team of coaches at the Academy, which boasts impressive state-of-the-art facilties, something which he believes will make his job easier.
“In terms of coaching, it’s one of the best facilities that any cricketer or coach would want to have,” he said. “It’s certainly better than other countries. When I was a player, it was fantastic to learn and play here and it’s great to be back.”