Heriot Watt University captain Rohit Singh insists his team are capable of causing some upsets in this week’s Red Bull Campus Cricket Finals in Sri Lanka.
The Dubai-based institution beat eight teams to earn the right to represent the UAE for the second consecutive season of the Twenty20 event and will now test themselves among the sport’s brightest prospects from around the world.
They face a tough task with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, England, Pakistan and Australia all aiming to dethrone two-time defending champions South Africa and reign supreme on September 11.
While Singh is wary of the challenge ahead, the 22-year-old has backed his team to upset the odds in Asia, especially with batsman Mohsin Khan and bowler Adnan Khan returning to the squad having missed last year’s tournament in India due to visa issues.
“We just need to play our natural game,” said the former Under-19 UAE captain, whose team have been training for the last two months.
“It’s a very balanced side and I could not have asked for anything more. We are one of the best university sides in the UAE and we have cricketers who have played in A Division tournaments in the UAE. We have fast bowlers, spinners, good aggressive batsmen and think positive and believe in themselves.
“It’s the same as last year but this time we have a more balanced side. We hope to reach the semi-finals and if we can have a good day, we could even reach the final.”
In last year’s event, the UAE enjoyed a mixed campaign, losing to South Africa and Sri Lanka before putting on a spirited display in their victory over Pakistan in the final group match.
Singh insists he was satisfied by their performances and has done his homework on conditions that his team are likely to encounter.
“I have been following the Test and ODI series between Sri Lanka and Australia and the spinners have been pretty effective, so our spinners will be key,” he said.
“India and Sri Lanka will be strong opponents especially the hosts who have three internationals in their team.
“But South Africa is one team that is pretty strong as they’ve won the past two championships and they will be the team to beat.”
Singh and Chirag Suri have represented the national team but the captain says his troops are out to do the UAE proud.
“When we go out there on shirts will have the UAE and not Heriot Watt. It will be big boost for us and through this platform, we are getting the chance to play for the UAE as well as playing in good stadiums.”
The UAE women’s national team will test themselves against international opposition on home soil after the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) confirmed they will host the first-ever Gulf Asian Cup later this year.
The dates have yet to be finalised but ECB administrator Mazhar Khan has revealed the Twenty20 tournament will be held in December with Sharjah Cricket Stadium a front-runner to host the majority of the games.
Talks on which teams will be invited are still on-going but a number of leading Asian and Gulf nations have been contacted to play in the eight-team event.
Having won the last two Gulf Cup titles, Khan said it was crucial to give the team many opportunities to play international matches for them to enhance their game.
“The team has been doing really well, winning the Gulf Cup twice and it was important to organise a tournament that will help them develop as players,” he told Sport360.
“The intention is to play with better and a larger pool of countries and also have good opposition so that we can improve our cricket. The ECB are organising this and we’ve been planning this for two months now. We have invited a number of teams and are just awaiting their confirmation.”
Since returning from Qatar last December following their second Gulf title, the UAE squad have only tested themselves among their peers in training sessions and domestic matches.
But all-rounder Natasha Michael insists it’s a great step by the ECB in promoting the women’s game. “It’s really exciting to hear this news,” she said.
“We have not had many chances to play at home as the UAE national team, as we were only playing in domestic games, but this announcement is a great boost.
“It will be great to have home support. It would be nice to have our family and friends watching us play. Most importantly, this is a chance to develop as cricketers as we only get better by playing against international opponents.”
“I expect the games will be tough and will be a great challenge for us,” added Natasha, who was part of the Sharjah Cricket Council squad that travelled to India last week for a training camp.
The news was also welcomed by UAE head coach Mohammed Hyder, saying it’s a big boost.
“The only way you can become better cricketers is by competing in games and against challenging opposition. I’m really happy there are plans to launch a new competition in the UAE.
“It’s great for them to play in front of home crowds which they’ve not been able to previously. This is a great opportunity for them to show how good a side they are, having won the Gulf Cup. They are very lucky and it will be a great experience.”
Young Talents Cricket Academy (YTCA) had a tour to remember in England, winning nine of their 10 matches.
Coming up against promising English youths, YTCA showcased their batting and bowling potential in a series of Twenty20 and 40-over matches.
Among the players to have impressed was Under-17 captain Mohammed Faraazuddin. The batsman left the opposition and spectators in awe with a brilliant unbeaten 121 (13 boundaries and in 104 balls) against Crook CC.
His efforts did not go unnoticed with Geoff Cook, director of cricket at Durham County, saying: “It was one of the best centuries I have seen by a 15-year-old, his techniques and the maturity was top class.”
The youngster went on to claim another half-century and 10 wickets in the tour and was later named Player of the Tournament in his age group.
“The first game was quite tough, even though we lost and it was a closely contested game,” he said. “However we ended up winning all other games, we could adjust to the conditions quickly.”
Opener and captain Mahith Fonseki won the top prize in the Under-13 category.
And Mahesh Fonseka, coach and director of YTCA, was impressed with the performances he saw on tour. “
The tour was a success and a great learning curve for the boys,” he said. “Such tours offer immense learning experience to our players and are part of our growing process.”