UAE captain Rohan Mustafa believes the national team is reaping the rewards of having central-contracted players following their recent improvement on the field.
The UAE arrived back to Dubai on Friday morning having clinched a 2-1 series victory in the 50-over format over Oman. It was their third-consecutive series triumph after beating Papua New Guinea on their home turf in the T20s (3-0) and ODIs (2-1) as well as the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup last month.
The positive results have come almost 12 months after the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) introduced their first-ever central contracts with eight players on full-time deals, while four are on part-time.
Full-timers Imran Haider, Qader Ahmed, Mustafa, Mohammed Qasim, Mohammed Usman, Rameez Shahzad and Ghulam Shabbir, as well as part-timers Amjad Javed, Ahmed Raza, Mohammed Naveed and Shaiman Anwar were 11 of the dozen to have played in both or one of the series.
The move came at a time when the UAE were struggling but since the announcement, the team have gradually showed signs of improvement with 13 wins in 29 matches, 11 of those in 2017 alone. Mustafa now feels the step of moving into professionalism is beginning to pay off.
“It’s been almost a year since we have been awarded the central contracts and I do honestly believe we are seeing improvement in the team,” said the 29-year-old batsman.
We look at five men behind UAE cricket's upturn in fortunes after getting back to winning ways against PNG.https://t.co/a3Ue3OC8DP— Sport360° (@Sport360) April 17, 2017
“When the contracts first began, my average in ODIs was around seven or eight and now it’s around 26. When Mohammed Usman and Imran Haider started, they were not consistent with their performances but now over the time, they’ve improved considerably and are taking wickets and scoring runs. “If you work hard for many hours per day, there’s no doubt you can improve as a player and I’m seeing that everyday when we train regularly. I’m really happy that we are playing well and I think the ability to train on a daily basis for a full day is making a big difference.”
The recent change of fortunes has also been achieved without a permanent head coach after Aaqib Javed stepped down last May. Former England internationals Paul Franks, Owais Shah and ex-Warwickshire boss Dougie Brown, who was in charge for the PNG and Oman series, have all been at the helm on short term deals.
The ECB is expected to make an official announcement on Aaqib’s permanent successor later this month and while Mustafa respects the decision for taking their time, he admits it was a difficult period working with different coaches.
“In my point of view, once you bring in a new coach for a short period, it’s very difficult for a player,” he said. “Each person has their own coaching philosophy and it can be different working with others. “I’ve seen a good coach in Dougie Brown and he’s very understandable. He doesn’t get frustrated if we don’t win games or do mistakes because he makes us understand. He’s a good coach and if he stays on as UAE coach it will be good.”
Ghulam Shabbir feels he’s rediscovering his best form with the bat after scoring a half-century in the UAE defeat to Oman on Thursday.
The wicketkeeper smashed 51 runs in the 50-over match but it wasn’t enough for his team to seal a 3-0 series whitewash win as the tourists fell to a 38-run loss in Muscat.
It was the 31-year-old’s second fifty of the tour and third milestone in eight matches and the Jhang-born is pleased he’s proving that he can make big scores and not just be handy behind the stumps.
“Nowadays, cricket is evolving and batting is equally as important as wicket-keeping,” he said.
“I feel there’s been a lot of improvement in my batting and although I scored a half-century, it was disappointed to have not won the series 3-0 because that was a scoreline that we all wanted.”
The series was the last in charge for Dougie Brown as interim head coach with the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) expected to name the permanent successor to Aaqib Javed later this month, a year after the ex-Pakistani pacer ended his successful four-year stay in the Emirates.
Shabbir credited Brown for their revival under the former Warwickshire boss, who also oversaw series victories in all three formats against Papua New Guinea last month.
“He’s definitely one of the best coaches I’ve worked with,” he said.
“He made the whole team united and gave the confidence to each and every player that they can do things. There was a real positive vibe around the squad and the players were really happy because we were improving every day.
“We will be ready to improve even more with the new coach.”
Former UAE internationals Fahad Al Hashmi, Salman Farooq and Qais Farooq, as well as Ali Mohammed Maksi, have been put through their paces in a series of training and fitness sessions as part of a new ECB initiative aimed to support the development of Emirati players.
The ECB already have an initiative in place in Al Ain with assistant coach Shahzada Saleem, who speaks Arabic, responsible for introducing the game to Emirati school children in the Garden City.
And the country’s governing body says the latest initiative is an addition to that.
“Yes this is a follow-up to that and we have coaches in place around the country and hopefully this can attract more Emiratis to come forward and take up cricket,” said Mazhar Khan, ECB administrator.
“We want to develop our Emirati programme and increase the numbers in this country.
“We have a great bunch of Emirati cricketers who have represented the UAE national team and continue to play domestic which is still very good.
“We want to develop them and the idea is to keep them fit and be involved in our cricketing activities whether it’s as a player or in a coaching role.”
UAE interim head coach Dougie Brown and Peter Kelly, sports science lead at ICC Academy and strength and conditioning coach of the national team, are just two to have overseen classes and Al Hashmi says it’s a great opportunity to enhance his knowledge.
“We were invited by the ECB and ICC Academy for this programme and it’s been really interesting so far,” said the 34-year-old pacer, who last played for the UAE at the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
“Although we are all playing domestic cricket, the ECB want us to continue playing and improve our knowledge and fitness with this new initiative. It’s only been three days so far but I’m definitely
This month, the Farooqs and Al Hashmi were roped in as consultants for Dubai Cricket Council team in their triumphant Under-16 Inter-Emirate tournament and Al Hashmi wants to pursue coaching if he doesn’t play for the UAE again.
“I still have hope that I can play for the UAE but if I don’t, I want to give something back because they have done a lot for me,” said Al Hashmi.
“This is a great initiative by the ECB and ICC Academy and whatever skills and knowledge I gain from this will be helpful as I can pass this on to others.”