For more than 13 years, Owais Shah has let the bat do the talking, whether it was on the international stage or in a premier T20 tournament.
And with his playing days now numbered, the former England and Middlesex batsman is passing on his experience and knowledge as the UAE interim coach.
Having been in the position since October, Shah caught up with Sport360 at the ICC Academy this month to talk about how he’s enjoying his new role, what he wants to implement and some of his cricketing memories.
You’ve been in charge of the UAE national team for a few weeks now. Considering this is your first coaching job, how are you enjoying it?
I’m loving it. I enjoy working with cricketers, working with talented guys and showing them of being tactical aware of things. I want them to improve and start thinking about the game but I’m quite happy so far.
When was the first time you saw the UAE play?
It was during the World Cup in 2015. It was an eye-opener for me that UAE were playing World Cup cricket which was really good. It was a great achievement to qualify for the World Cup. Hats off to them and they did well in the past.
But that’s in the past and we got to look at what we are going now in the future and produce results and get back to winning ways.
What do you want to achieve from this role?
I would like them to improve and get back to winning ways and improve the individuals here. Whether that’s in batting, bowling or fielding, or just thinking about the game.
What are the main challenges for you?
It’s like any nation. There are a few challenges. The facilities are definitely not one of them and we have amazing facilities over here. I guess having the availability of players all the time would be good but it is what it is. With the ECB introducing central contracts, we should in say eight to 12 months, see an improvement, a drastic improvement. If you’re practising skills day in day out, in theory you should get better.
You’ve been here for nearly three months. What improvements need to be made in UAE cricket?
There’s a lot. We need to have more domestic cricket so there’s a bigger pool of players to choose from and regular tournaments. The main focus of UAE cricket is in T20 and that means there’s hardly any 50-over cricket being played. How are we going to get better if we don’t play any 50-over cricket?
You were also a professional cricketer. How important is it for UAE cricketers to understand about professionalism in the game?
Everything you do is being professional, whether that’s eating right, sleeping right, turning up for time – that’s just off-field stuff. Wearing the correct kit and footwear and being on time, that’s what you call professional.
What have you learnt from your playing days that you want to implement?
What I learnt is that there is not just one way of doing things, there are a lot of ways to do things. Travelling the world and playing cricket shows you different techniques, cultures and different ways.
I would like to draw on those experiences and give the guys options here. It’s not just about producing results, if you want to do it your way that’s not a problem, it’s all about the results.
It’s a beautiful game and I would love to see them have opportunities around the world. That will only happen if they improve their game and start producing results. Some key elements are like characteristics and mental toughness.
You play against tough players and opponents who are flamboyant and you have to extract all those qualities to help these guys.
Your contract ends at the end of January. Are you hoping it will be extended?
I would like to. The answer to that question lies with the selectors.
With your playing days numbered, is coaching now the future for you?
If the opportunity came along like this then I would love to do this.
Have you found coaching difficult to what you had expected it to be?
There are different aspects which are difficult and different aspects which are easy to relate to. Nothing is going to be easy in life so you have to work hard at it, get to grips at different things and produce stuff your way.
Every coach has their own way of coaching. What is your philosophy?
Mine is to make decisions what is the best for the team. If that means if everyone hates me, then so be it. But I will do everything that’s in the best interests of UAE cricket and I don’t care if I upset anyone. If I sleep at night knowing I’ve done the best for the UAE team, then it’s good.
Was that something you learnt when you were playing?
That’s how my parents brought me up by doing the right thing. I’m not going to do any favours to anyone but just do the right thing.
You haven’t officially retired but if any club offered you a deal, would you consider it?
I’m getting old now (he’s 38) but I don’t know and have to see.
You’ve played around the world in some big T20 competitions. What were the ones that stood out for you?
The Big Bash and IPL. The atmosphere, the whole country buzz, television coverage and atmosphere in the games is amazing. Those two countries know who to do T20 cricket.
How do you look back at your England career?
I enjoyed playing for England and I wish I had more opportunities in the longer format but it just didn’t work out that way. There are no regrets, I would have liked to play a bit more and only got a handful of opportunities in Test cricket. In one-day cricket I thought I was playing well until I got dropped but that’s the way it is.
Who was your favourite coach you worked under and why?
It has to be Richard Pybus. I enjoyed working with him in his very short stint at Middlesex. I also worked under him with Cape Cobras. His man management skills were very good and read the game quite well. I think his management of players was his best quality he had.
UAE cricket’s 2016 came to an abrupt end in defeat to Afghanistan in the three-match T20I series this week.
Around the corner in the New Year are warm-ups to April’s crucial Intercontinental Cup fixture with Papua New Guinea in Abu Dhabi.
Ahead of those fixtures, Sport360.com’s online deputy editor, Barnaby Read, looks at five things UAE must address at the turn of 2017.
What do you think of the UAE’s record in 2016 and what would you like to see them change in the New Year?
Have your say by commenting below, using #360fans on Twitter or getting in touch via Facebook.
By the end of January, interim coach Owais Shah’s second temporary deal will be up.
It will also mark nine months since their most successful ever coach Aaqib Javed handed in his resignation.
Whether Shah is the man for the job or it is someone else, UAE must appoint a full-time coach to lead them forward for the sake of stability, continuity and allow someone to put their stamp on the team as they look to forge UAE’s transition into a professional team.
BATSMEN MUST CONVERT STARTS
Speaking to Shah after the Lions series his frustration was evidently clear that his batsmen continue to get starts but not make the most of their opportunities.
In the subsequent series against a very strong Afghanistan, the likes of Rohan Mustafa and Shaiman Anwar again made good early on but could not see innings out.
If they are to turn around their woeful record in 2016 then these batsmen must start taking responsibility and proving that they can go big when their team need them the most.
DOMESTIC GAME RESTRUCTURING AND INVESTMENT
Time and again this notion has been raised but if the Emirates Cricket Board want to take UAE cricket to new levels then they must rip up the domestic structure and start again.
The regional boards must be brought together, the importance of longer format tournaments and competition for places among UAE nationals as well as extra investment must be instigated and sourced.
It is time people put UAE cricket’s needs ahead of their own or risk yet more teams like Danube turning their back on the domestic game and leaving national team players with limited opportunities.
GET SOME FANS
Somehow, someway, the ECB and its regional boards must engage the local cricketing community.
Send players to schools, get the professional internationals to run training sessions and make the enormous expat communities from the sub-continent aware of their compatriots taking up the willow for their shared adopted nation.
The next time Afghanistan, or other teams for that matter, come to play in the UAE, they should be outnumbered by UAE supporters and not the other way round.
A good starting point? Send schools along to games and give them some UAE flags to wave.
SEND PLAYERS OVERSEAS
When missing out on the Pakistan Super League action, Ahmed Raza spoke of the need for UAE players to be given an opportunity outside of the country.
A good standard of club cricket in England, domestic seasons in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world are not beyond UAE players and their CVs, combined with the clout of the ECB and their bed buddies from Pakistan should help.
Like with many things on this list, definitive action combined with desire and support would go a long way.
The UAE women’s team are just one win away from title glory after defeating Kuwait by 29 runs in the International Women’s T20 Cup.
The hosts have been in fine form throughout this tournament and on Sunday was no exception as Ishani Seneviratna helped herself to four wickets in an impressive victory over the Gulf neighbours.
Kenya now stand in their way of lifting the trophy with the two teams meeting in Monday’s final at Sharjah Stadium after the African side edged past Uganda by one wicket.
It will be the second time the nations will clash in less than a week but the UAE can draw confidence from their six-run triumph in their first meeting.
But for UAE captain Humaira Tasneem, she is not reading too much into the past.
“We’re pretty excited to reach the final,” said the 21-year-old leg spinner. “That was our aim before the tournament started and we are happy to have done that now.
“Kenya are a strong side and they pushed us really close the last time we met. We know we can beat them but it’s what happens on the day. We have to go out there, focus and play like how we’ve been playing all week.”
As skipper, Tasneem is all too familiar with winning titles, having guided the team to the Gulf Cup 12 months ago in Qatar. But she insists reigning supreme on home soil would be among her best achievements.
“This is my biggest game as captain,” she said. “I’ve captained before but this is completely different as this is our home ground. It’s exciting and I’m overwhelmed but we are all raring to go and bring home the cup.”
Earlier, the UAE recovered from a poor start to reach 113-8 with Priyanjali Jain top-scoring with 30.
Kuwait were rattled early on, losing two wickets for just one run. Although Maryam Omar (26) and Varshini Suresh (14) steadied the ship, Seneviratna ran through the middle order to dismiss Kuwait for 84.
Brief scores: UAE bt Kuwait by 29 runs. UAE: 113-8 in 20 overs (Priyanjali Jain 30; Varshini Suresh 3-14). Kuwait: 84 all out in 19.4 overs (Maryam Omar 26, Ishani Seneviratna 4/18, Humaira Tasneem 2/14).