A top Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) official admits it will be difficult to select the best group of cricketers to represent the UAE Under-16 team after being impressed with the talent he saw in this season’s Inter-Emirate tournament.
More than 50 promising youngsters from Ajman, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah were in action as they looked to catch eye of selectors and make a case for donning the national jersey.
Captain Aryan Lakra pressed his case with an unbeaten 100 (12 fours and one six) off 109 deliveries as Dubai retained their title after an eight-wicket victory over Ajman Cricket Council.
Ronak Panoly (317 runs), Lakra (222) and Vriitya Arvand (162), all of Dubai, were the three to score tons. Lakra (eight), Adithya Shetty (seven), Yuvraj Jaisingh and Anwar Khan (both six) were among the top wicket-takers.
The ECB will now analyse all performances before selecting a shortlist of 20 for a four-month training camp ahead of naming their final squad for the West Asia tournament in Qatar in September.
Andrew Russell, national development manager of the ECB, said: “We have a good bunch of youth players coming through which is good to see just from this tournament alone.
“There were a lot of good batting performances and big scores which is always nice to see, while the bowling was very good.
“Hopefully, the boys who do get selected can step up after a few practice sessions and compete internationally.”
Lakra is hoping to make the final shortlist for the second time after making the cut in the U-16 and U-19 categories.
“Since I was selected last year, I felt I needed to lead from the front and I was happy to do that,” said the 15-year-old.
“To score a century in the final is fantastic and I was focused on helping my team win the title. There were a lot of players I hadn’t played against which was a bit difficult, but it shows that there is a very good pool of players.
“I hope I’ve done enough to make the next round because it was a real honour to represent the UAE Under-19s last year and would love to do it again.”
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UAE’s Shaiman Anwar insists there’s no reason why he can’t score more tons and even harbours hopes of playing when he reaches 40 following his historic T20I century on Friday.
The 38-year-old entered the record books by becoming the first UAE cricketer to reach the milestone in the shortest format.
The veteran was on a different level with the bat at Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Stadium and proved that age is no barrier with a superb 117no (10 fours and six sixes) off just 68 deliveries in their 30-run victory over Papua New Guinea, which sealed the three-match series with one match to spare.
It was the second time he became his national team’s first centurion after he was the first UAE cricketer to reach triple figures in the World Cup against Ireland in the 2015 tournament.
Friday’s knock eclipsed his personal best of 60 (against Afghanistan in 2016) and the Sialkot-born batsman was thrilled he delivered a match-winning performance.
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“It’s absolutely a great feeling to score a century in such an important game,” he said. “I have been working hard for the last couple of months and now the hard work has paid off. I didn’t know my score was the highest by a UAE batsman until I was told and it feels even more special considering it helped us win the game.
“To put on the UAE shirt and play for your country is always an honour and I just went out there and played my natural game. I have scored a century in the World Cup and now T20 and let’s hope this isn’t the end of more centuries for me because I still feel fresh.”
Since he made his international debut in the early 2000s, Anwar has become a mainstay for the UAE team for more than a decade, scoring more than 4,000 runs.
Former captain Khurram Khan, who became a key figure for the UAE, retired from international cricket in June 2015, two weeks short of his 44th birthday.
Anwar insists he has no plans to lay down the bat anytime soon providing he’s at the top of his game with his fitness.
“I think I can continue playing in my 40s but this all depends on my fitness,” he said.
“I feel I’m in good shape at the moment and with any sport, you have to be fit to play because it’s definitely a lot harder to play if you’re not training hard.”