Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) officials are expected to travel to the UAE next week to discuss finalising Sharjah Cricket Stadium as the venue of their first-ever Test match, Sport360° understands.
Afghanistan, along with Ireland, were confirmed as Full Members of the International Cricket Council (ICC) during a board meeting in June and the Asian side hope to play Zimbabwe in their maiden five-day fixture as part of a series later this year.
Although Afghanistan have played their home games in Greater Noida in India since 2016, Sharjah has been identified as the preferred option due to the climate.
Sport360° understands a meeting with UAE cricket officials was postponed but are likely to hold talks again as early as next week to discuss the matter.
If a deal is agreed it would mean Afghanistan returning to Sharjah – a venue they called home between 2010-16. During that period, Afghanistan won 10 of their 15 ODIs and six of nine T20 internationals as they became a dominant Associate force in the limited-overs formats.
Besides Sharjah, Afghanistan have plenty of experience of playing in other venues in this country. They registered a 3-0 series whitewash over the UAE at the ICC Academy in December before triumphing at the inaugural Desert T20, which was held in Dubai and Abu Dhabi at the start of the year.
ACB will have to appoint a new head coach after deciding not to renew Lalchand Rajput’s contract.
Fahad Al Hashmi is still hopeful of representing the UAE national outdoor team and is adamant he must seize his chance at the Indoor World Cup if he wants to earn a recall after a two-year absence.
Al Hashmi, 35, has not played for his country since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament on his right knee during his team’s 146-run defeat to South Africa at the 2015 World Cup in Wellington, New Zealand.
Despite being fully fit, the fast-bowler has struggled to force his way back into the outdoor set-up but impressed the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) selectors during the trials to be named in the UAE 12-man squad for next month’s Indoor World Cup at Dubai’s Insportz Club.
While Al Hashmi says it’s a privilege to have made the cut, he knows the global tournament is the perfect opportunity to break his way back into head coach Dougie Brown’s plans.
“I’m really proud to have been selected and to represent the UAE again,” said Al Hashmi, who has won 21 international caps.
“After my long-term injury, I’m now fit and ready to represent my country again.
“I’m still hopeful that I have an international future with the outdoor UAE team. I have been given a golden chance and I do think I can bowl 10 overs because I don’t have any problems.
“The Indoor World Cup is the right platform to show people that I’m at my level best. I want to prove that I can play but I know if I want to have any hope of coming back into the team, I will have to take a lot of wickets, bowl very good overs and keep fit in the tournament.”
Although he has been in exile, Al Hashmi remains in the Emirates Cricket Board’s (ECB) plans through one of their initiatives. Since April, Al Hashmi is one of four Emirati cricketers to have been put through their paces through a series a fitness and skill sessions aimed at developing their game.
That has seen him work with the UAE coaching staff, including head coach Brown, assistant Dominic Telo and strength and conditioning coach Peter Kelly.
He said: “Having been out of action for so long and always wanting to develop myself, I’ve been going to the ICC Academy for a series of coaching sessions. The ECB is really supporting me and people like Dougie Brown, Dominic Telo and Peter Kelly have really helped me. I’m now performing well and feel good with the ball in taking wickets.
“Dougie has been satisfied with me and I’m doing what he says and I have improved a lot. So let’s see what happens. I just want to give my level best and hope we do well.”
A decade after captaining the UAE aged just 12, Natasha Michael says it’s surreal that she will now be leading the national team again for next month’s Indoor World Cup in Dubai.
Michael, 23, was named by the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) on Wednesday as the skipper for the women’s side in the week-long tournament from September 16-23 at Insportz Club.
It will be the first time she will wear the armband since skippering the first UAE outdoor women’s side 10 years ago and insists it’s a real privilege to be appointed again especially in a different format on home soil.
“I still can’t believe it,” the batswoman said. “I was still in a bit of shock when I found out and it’s a very big responsibility but it’s something I’m definitely looking forward to and playing with this team. I was captain when I was 12 and it’s quite ironic because that was exactly 10 years ago and with it being the Indoor World Cup, I’m very grateful that the ECB has allowed me to lead the side.”
“I think it was a long time ago but I’m pretty sure I still have the same butterflies I had than 10 years ago when they told me I would be captain. It’s the same feeling and nothing’s changed.
“Getting news like this you don’t hear things like this every day and it was definitely the good kind of butterflies in my stomach.”
Despite studying in India bet-ween 2010-15, she has been a regular member of the outdoor UAE set-up and was part of the squad that won the 2015 Gulf Cup, while also finishing second in the UAE International Women’s Cup a year later.
Having gradually become a key player, Michael insists reclaiming the armband was never a priority and was just happy to be just part of the team.
She added: “No, it was never on my mind,” she said. “Whatever role it was, I’d be happy with. At the end of the day, your whole team has to do the job so you just need someone to reassure you that you guys are good. It never really popped into my head about being captain or not, I just wanted to play.”
The World Cup will see eight teams battle for glory and while Michael admits the indoor format will be challenging, she says one of the aims is to raise the profile of the UAE women’s cricket team.
“Indoor cricket was always the fun format where you can play with your friends and family,” said Michael. “I think everyone including me wanted to participate because it would help them develop as a cricketer. That was one of the main reasons and we’ve never been exposed to this type of cricket.
“To think that there’s an actual Indoor World Cup is just mind blowing and that people take this format very seriously.
“It’s very exciting because there are a whole lot different new things compared to outdoor cricket.
“Everyone is striving to improve and play well. We don’t have any pressure on us in terms of the other teams who are playing.
“As a team, we are so good individually which means we work so well together.
“I think no-one is worried about the results right now, everyone is looking at it as one game at a time and see how we perform. We just want to boost our morale.”