Just one step away from representing the UAE at both Under-16 and U-19 levels this year, Ansh Tandon and Aryan Lakra both admit they would be hugely disappointed if they are not selected in the final squads.
Fifteen-year-olds Tandon and Lakra, are the only cricketers to find themselves in both age groups of the on-going training camp at ICC Academy, having impressed during the domestic season last term.
With a pool of more than 40 hopefuls, the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) are set to announce their final 15-man squad next week for September’s U-16 ACC West Asia Championship participation in Qatar, while they will name their team for October’s U-19 Asia Cup qualifiers in Kuwait next month.
Both players made their international debuts last year at U-19 level, and while the chances of playing for the national team this year are greater than before, they are not taking anything for granted.
“The target is to get into both squads and it would feel really good and be a surreal moment,” said Tandon, who has scored 233 runs in A Division tournaments for Sharjah Cricket Club and ECB Blues.
“It’s a good challenge to push for places but it will be very tough for the selectors as everyone in both the camps are very good.
“I feel confident but not taking anything for granted for sure.”
Lakra echoed Tandon’s view. “I had played last year for the UAE and I would be a bit sad if I don’t get into both squads,” said all-rounder, Lakra.
“I have been practising very hard recently in the nets and gym and to be playing for the UAE U-16 and U-19 this year would be the cherry on the top for me.”
He added: “The camps have been going really well but we have noticed the standard level has gone up and the coaches are making us work to ensure we are ready if we are selected for the UAE teams.”
UAE head coach Dougie Brown has challenged Chirag Suri to make the most of his opportunities in the Netherlands series this month after seeing an improvement to his game since returning from the IPL.
Suri, 22, has been recalled for the three-match 50-over series against the Dutch, starting next Monday after a six-month absence and the first time since his stint with Gujarat Lions ended.
He failed to get any game time in India but training with the likes of 2011 World Cup winner Suresh Raina, ex-New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch certainly had a big impact on Suri’s development.
The evidence was there to see with the former GEMS Modern Academy and Repton School pupil scoring six half-centuries in the domestic tournaments.
Now seven weeks on from the IPL, Brown is encouraged by Suri’s game and believes it bodes well for him to make his mark in the national team, beginning with the Dutch.
“He’s had a good six or seven weeks in the IPL and he looks a very matured and well all-rounded player now,” said the 47-year-old, who will take charge for the first time as head coach after serving a successful three-month stint as interim.
“Clearly he was a talented player before he went away to India but I think he’s come back more polished. He’s just 22 and it’s a good age to be getting opportunities. He’s a very talented cricketer and there’s no doubt that he will add to the dynamic that we’ve already got.”
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He added: “We’re hoping with him playing that he can perform and that’s the same with any other player in the squad.
“The fact that he’s young and inexperienced is many ways irrelevant. Having been in the IPL, if there was any step to take up to the national team then it is now. He’s confident and I feel that given the chance, he’ll do really well for the team.”
For Suri, a former UAE U-19, who has five senior caps, he’s part of a 14-man squad that will be skippered by Rohan Mustafa.
The captain has been impressed with Suri’s efforts in training and feels he has all the qualities to become “one of the best batsmen for the UAE”.
“He’s been performing well and I feel he can be one of the best batsmen for the UAE,” said the 28-year-old all-rounder.
“If you have a youngster in the team, then it’s good sign for those players in the youth levels.
“I felt before that there should be some Under-19s players in the UAE team because you can give them support and it would be very good to blend more youths,” he added.
UAE captain Rohan Mustafa has revealed that he and key players spoke to Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) officials on their wish for Dougie Brown to be the next head coach prior to his appointment.
Brown, 47, was officially named as Aaqib Javed’s successor in May after a successful three-month stint as interim coach.
During those 12 weeks in charge, the former England and Scotland international made a big impact as the team won eight matches en route to sealing ODI and T20I series wins over Papua New Guinea as well as the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup match. He also oversaw the 50-over series triumph over Oman at the end of April.
It was during the tour to Muscat that a group of seniors had spoken to ECB chief David East on their preference for Brown to be installed as the new man.
“Myself, Mohammed Naveed and Ahmed Raza spoke to David East when he was with us in Oman that if it was possible to hire Dougie, then we want him,” said Mustafa, 28. “There were other players who wanted him like Amjad Javed and Shaiman Anwar.
“We also spoke to Waleed Bukhatir (chief selector of the UAE) because under Dougie we did very well.
“There were a few coaches who came in after Aaqib Javed left and we thought that Dougie Brown’s the best choice because his technique and understandings is good. He’s very understanding with you as a player and can manage easily just like how Aaqib did.”
Mustafa was pleased that the team’s feedback was taken on board by the ECB and believes the team can continue to build on their recent upsurge under Brown’s helm – beginning with this month’s ODI series against Netherlands from July 10.
“It’s a very good appointment taken by the ECB and under him we had a lot of success and won a lot of matches,” said Mustafa.
“We were with him for three months and he has great ideas and is a hard working person. It’s good news for everyone involved in UAE cricket and now focus on attaining good results and our ODI status.”
The UAE had meant to travel to Birmingham last Thursday for a short training camp ahead of the three matches against the Netherlands but will now travel straight to Amsterdam later this month.
It means Mustafa and the rest of the 14-man squad will spend more time training indoors at the ICC Academy in Dubai.
But the all-rounder is adamant they will be ready when they face the Dutch in eight days time.
“I don’t think we will face any trouble there because it will be different conditions,” he said. “We’ve seen a few recent matches of Netherlands and the wicket was good so I don’t think we’ll have much trouble over there.”
The skipper has every reason to be optimistic especially since the majority of the squad were engaged in various T20 tournaments across the country during Ramadan.
“I won three man of the tournament awards while Shaiman Anwar and Adnan Mufti won some top accolades,” he said.
“If you score big runs or take wickets against any team it can give you confidence which we can take for the games against Netherlands.”